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Government: land reform fraudsters to be prosecuted

08 Nov 2016

Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, says government will deal harshly with those found to be involved in corrupt practices across various land reform programmes.

Land Reform and Rural Development Minister, Gugile Nkwinti, says government will deal harshly with those found to be involved in corrupt practices across various land reform programmes.

The Minister said this when he officially received a list of State farms that have been recovered by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The farms were recovered following investigations by the SIU and the Assets Forfeiture Unit (AFU) on State properties in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We should also give notice … to people who are involved in these fraudulent and corrupt practices out there that we will act firmly … to ensure that we punish them.

“We will not tolerate anything that will deny people the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives. We want people out there, who have been looking at what’s happening and thinking that government and the criminal justice system are doing nothing, (to know we) have been working quietly. Today we thought we would tell (them we) have reached this point and we are going to act,” he said.

The Minister’s statement was in relation to investigations that led to the AFU seizing farms from those suspected to have acquired them through fraudulent and corrupt means after the National Prosecuting Authority received complaints in March 2009.

It was alleged at the time that farms were fraudulently sold and transferred to individuals and community trusts for the benefit of individuals who were not eligible to be beneficiaries.

It was also alleged that rightful beneficiaries were removed from beneficiary lists and replaced with fictitious people and those who were family members of the department’s officials. Public servants allegedly colluded with several farm owners and sellers in the sale of the farms to the department at excessively high amounts.

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, said the complaints were referred to the SA Police Service for initial criminal investigations.

In March 2010, the AFU and the police, with assistance from the department, investigated the allegations.

President Jacob Zuma then made a proclamation on 18 February 2011 to pave the way to an investigation by the SIU.

Investigation findings

Before handing over a list of 29 farms that had been recovered to the Minister on Thursday, 3 November 2016, Abrahams announced the findings of the investigations.

He said 35 preservation orders to the value of R462 910 were obtained during the period, resulting in forfeiture orders with a total value of R373 912 541.

He said 15 of the farms - with a total value of R142 447 392 - have since been transferred back to the department.

“Transfer is, however, still pending on the remainder of the farms. Approximately 12 cases have been referred for criminal investigations and prosecution,” he said.

Abrahams said the suspects include several officials from the department, the sellers of the farms and transferring attorneys.

“The significance of the above investigations and recoveries is that the alleged offences affect rural communities, our most vulnerable members of society, who often continue to be deprived and marginalised by the delay in the delivery of the much needed services in society.

“The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the AFU in particular, together with its stakeholders, will continue to work together in ensuring that it renders the much needed assistance to the (department) by ensuring that all farms that were unlawfully transferred to illegitimate individuals and entities are recovered and re-allocated to the rightful beneficiaries.

“The NPA will further ensure that the prosecution of those implicated is expedited so that a loud and clear message is conveyed to all those concerned that crime does not pay.” -
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