Mbombela boss dogged by dodgy land deals

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

Neil Di­a­mond, the new act­ing mu­nic­i­pal man­ager of Mpumalanga’s cash-strapped City of Mbombela, who was ap­pointed to turn its for­tunes around, is ex­pected to deal with neg­a­tive per­cep­tions about his past – in­clud­ing his in­volve­ment in a con­tro­ver­sial R40 mil­lion land swap deal with his pre­vi­ous em­ployer.

The Mpumalanga de­part­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs ap­pointed Di­a­mond to help re­solve Mbombela’s fi­nan­cial strug­gles, which saw em­ploy­ees be­ing paid late in Fe­bru­ary and May, and ser­vice providers left beg­ging for their pay­ments long af­ter de­liv­er­ing.

“He comes highly rec­om­mended, [and has] many years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a coun­cil­lor in the City of Ekurhu­leni and qual­i­fi­ca­tions such as an MBA,” said a source in the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, Di­a­mond’s che­quered his­tory in Ekurhu­leni, where he served as ANC coun­cil­lor, has raised ques­tions from those who checked his back­ground.

Di­a­mond ap­plied for the job of mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, and the co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance de­part­ment ap­pointed him to sta­bilise the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for at least 18 months. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity will there­after ap­point a man­ager for a fixed five-year term.

De­part­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance head Peter Ny­oni said: “We wrote to the in­tegrity man­age­ment unit in Pre­mier David Mabuza’s of­fice, ask­ing it to screen him. We do not know about the land deal, but it will not be in the best in­ter­ests of the pub­lic if he has shady deal­ings from the past.”

When Di­a­mond was ANC coun­cil­lor in Ekurhu­leni in Gaut­eng, he and his busi­ness part­ner, Syd­ney Rean Booy­sen, were in­volved in a con­tro­ver­sial land swap deal with the Ekurhu­leni mu­nic­i­pal­ity in 2006. Di­a­mond dou­bled as an estate agent at the time.

The deal saw Booy­sen’s com­pa­nies – Homet­alk De­vel­op­ments, Afropulse 132 and King Trade In­vest 100010 – swap­ping their less valu­able 55.3 hectare land for the Mey­ers­dal Na­ture Estate up­mar­ket hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in Ekurhu­leni in 2006, de­spite ob­jec­tions from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s cor­po­rate and le­gal af­fairs de­part­ment. Di­a­mond also owned a 20% stake in Afropulse.

It is es­ti­mated that Ekurhu­leni mu­nic­i­pal­ity lost about R40 mil­lion be­cause of the three com­pa­nies’ land, Elands­fontein, which was 47% less valu­able than the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Klipriv­iers­berg.

Only 32.8ha of Elands­fontein could be de­vel­oped as the other part was en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive.

Booy­sen has tried in vain since the swap deal to get the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to grant him a cer­tifi­cate for the de­vel­op­ment of the estate.

The three com­pa­nies failed in their Supreme Court of Ap­peal bid last month to over­turn a high court de­ci­sion that dis­missed their claim for eco­nomic loss against Ekurhu­leni, re­sult­ing from its re­fusal to grant them the cer­tifi­cate.

Di­a­mond’s lawyer, An­drew Bo­erner, told City Press that al­though he was not part of the court ap­pli­ca­tion at the time, the al­le­ga­tions against his client were “vex­a­tious and false, and based on in­cor­rect facts. As such, they amount to a con­tin­ued per­sonal ven­detta against Mr Di­a­mond with the sole pur­pose to dis­credit and in­tim­i­date.”

Collen Sed­ibe, the Eco­nomic Freedom Fighters’ pro­vin­cial chair, ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at Di­a­mond’s ap­point­ment.

“If they had screened Di­a­mond, they would not have ap­pointed him,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.