Court: Take back the land

Min­is­ter or­dered to rereg­is­ter land and prop­erly probe claim in next four months

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Acourt has or­dered Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Land Re­form Min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti to take back land that was given to a con­tro­ver­sial trust and review the claim. The va­lid­ity of the claim in­volv­ing 105 farms worth R51 mil­lion in Mpumalanga’s Bad­plaas area has been con­tested over the past 12 years, and has re­sulted in a R3.3 mil­lion fraud charge be­ing laid against Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza.

The farms were trans­ferred to the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust in 2003, but the whole process raised a furore be­cause of al­le­ga­tions that the land prices were hugely in­flated and the whole claim was a scam be­cause all the ben­e­fi­cia­ries were fake.

On Novem­ber 20, Rand­burg’s Land Claims Court or­dered Nk­winti to rereg­is­ter the land in the name of the state be­fore Jan­uary 31 and ap­point an in­de­pen­dent re­searcher to prop­erly in­ves­ti­gate the claim be­fore May 20.

The court is­sued the order after six con­cerned claimants ap­proached it early last year to re­verse a de­ci­sion by the Com­mis­sion on Resti­tu­tion of Land Rights to con­sol­i­date var­i­ous over­lap­ping claims that were lodged by dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties un­der the Nd­wandwa Trust.

“It ap­pears be­yond con­tes­ta­tion that the claimants did not con­sent to the trans­fer of the prop­erty. In fact, they ob­jected. The pro­vi­sions of the Resti­tu­tion Act have ac­cord­ingly been breached,” or­dered act­ing Judge Tem­beka Ngcukaitobi.

“The de­ci­sion to con­sol­i­date the claims had pro­found con­se­quences for the ap­pli­cants. The ap­pli­cants, be­ing claimants, did not re­ceive the ben­e­fit of the land … nor did they re­ceive the ben­e­fit of the grant pay­ment [of R8.8 mil­lion to the trust].”

The court has or­dered the review and set­ting aside of the con­sol­i­da­tion of var­i­ous claims lodged by dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties un­der the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust claim be­cause it was in­valid, as well as into the reg­is­tra­tion of land in the name of the Nd­wandwa Trust.

Nk­winti’s spokesper­son, Linda Page, said: “The depart­ment is go­ing to ac­cept and im­ple­ment the rul­ing of the Land Claims Court.”

When she was land af­fairs min­is­ter, Thoko Didiza or­dered a forensic investigation into the scam, but ap­par­ently did not act on rec­om­men­da­tions to lay crim­i­nal charges and in­sti­tute civil claims to re­cover some of the money.

The investigation found that farms were sold to govern­ment for R25.8 mil­lion – more than dou­ble their ac­tual value.

The court order partly con­curs with a re­port com­piled by pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor Paul O’Sul­li­van, as well as with con­cerns about the va­lid­ity of the claim raised by na­ture con­ser­va­tion­ist Fred Daniel.

Daniel said: “There is po­etic jus­tice, after all. We’ve con­tended that the Nd­wandwa Trust land claim was fake. The im­pli­ca­tion of this judg­ment is that the claim was a mas­sive land scam and the whole place is now a mess with farm­ing hav­ing col­lapsed and in­vestors re­luc­tant to come into the area.”

The Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers in Mpumalanga used O’Sul­li­van’s re­port to lay charges against Mabuza in Novem­ber. The Hawks have con­firmed that a fraud charge was laid.

O’Sul­li­van’s re­port points fin­gers at busi­ness­man Pi­eter Vis­agie, who al­legedly ap­proached farm­ers and con­vinced them to sell their farms to him, though he did not have the means to buy them. Vis­agie al­legedly resold the farms to govern­ment at in­flated prices for the ben­e­fit of the Nd­wandwa Com­mu­nity Trust. O’Sul­li­van claims Vis­agie formed the trust with bo­gus claimants.

Vis­agie did not an­swer his phone or re­spond to ques­tions sent to him via SMS. Pre­vi­ously, Vis­agie de­nied all the al­le­ga­tions that he formed a fic­ti­tious trust, in­flated prices and lodged an in­valid claim.

“I’ve been busy with this non­sense for 12 years of my life. I paid for ev­ery farm and I wasn’t a val­u­a­tor to in­flate prices. Ev­ery al­le­ga­tion is false and they fight ev­ery­one,” he said. O’Sul­li­van said he gave his re­port to Nk­winti in 2014. The fraud charge against Mabuza is based on al­le­ga­tions that, while he was Mpumalanga agri­cul­ture MEC, Vis­agie al­legedly ap­proached him to com­plain that the Com­mis­sion on Resti­tu­tion of Land Rights had un­der­paid him by R3.3 mil­lion on some prop­er­ties he sold. Mabuza ap­pointed a joint task team, which con­sisted of of­fi­cials from the com­mis­sion and his depart­ment, to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter. The team found that Vis­agie was owed R3.3 mil­lion for ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture that was ex­cluded when the val­u­a­tion of the prop­er­ties was con­ducted.

Mabuza, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments City Press has seen, per­suaded the com­mis­sion to pay Vis­agie the amount in 2009. Mabuza’s spokesper­son, Zi­bonele Mncwango, has dis­tanced Mabuza from this is­sue, say­ing: “Land claims were not his com­pe­tence.”

PIERO

AL­BER­TON

MALL@REDS

motani

BENONI

JORDAN BLACK­HEATH

/CRESTA

MEAD­OW­DALE

BLOEM­FONTEIN

MEN­LYN

KELLY

AVALON

BOKS­BURG

NORTH­GATE

BRUMA

NEL­SPRUIT

ZA­VIER

BURG­ERS­FORT

CEN­TU­RION

PI­ETER­MAR­ITZBURG

DUR­BAN/UMH­LANGA DUR­BAN/SPRING­FIELD

POLOK­WANE

POLOK­WANE

RICHARDS BAY

FOUR­WAYS

RUSTEN­BURG

HAZYVIEW

SAND­TON

SAN­TI­AGO

ARCHIMEDES BEL­LA­GIO

KEMP­TON PARK

KIM­BER­LEY

KOLON­NADE

KWAMASHU

SOUTH­GATE STRUBENSVAL­LEY VEREENIG­ING

MALL@CAR­NI­VAL

WEST­GATE

WIT­BANK

Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Land Re­form Min­is­ter Gugile

Nk­winti

PHOTO: THE­UNS BOTHA

RESTI­TU­TION A 12-year bat­tle in Mpumalanga over whether the state may

have been ripped off by a trust falsely claim­ing to rep­re­sent black in­ter­ests is com­ing to a

head

COURT ORDER

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