While the World Cup Soccer is the centre of attention here in South Africa, the sneaky individual(s) who tried embezzling municipal properties under the false guise that they were land reform transactions, have still not been apprehended.
In May 2010, iolproperty.co.za reported that the City of Johannesburg admitted that 33 huge tracts of prime real estate, including parks and a nature reserve in the heart of Sandton, valued at R87 million, had been sold fraudulently. The full article is here.
It now appears that this same swindle has extended to other prime areas in the country. What I don’t understand is that the authorities involved are forever promising that these matters are under investigation and that the culprits will be exposed, but WHEN are we going to see the criminals behind bars?
The following article, which I found on moneyweb.co.za, is a recent update regarding this scandalous business:
Prime council land shocker
The sale of prime council land for a song extends to Tshwane and North West.
PRETORIA - The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform says no action has yet been taken against any officials at the Pretoria deeds office or the Johannesburg municipality following the alleged illegal transfer of more than 30 Johannesburg municipal properties. The transfers were completed by the Pretoria deeds office and new media reports allege that about 30 properties of the Tshwane Metro and the North West Housing Corporation have also been illegally transferred.
The department is looking into all the cases, but said that the investigation was at a preliminary stage and therefore it couldn't answer any questions posed by the media, such as how it was possible for the transfers to take place without the knowledge of municipal officials and what is being done to prevent further recurrences.
The department did however note that it "upholds clean governance and a corruption free administration and has no place for corrupt officials". According to Business Report, the Johannesburg property transfers were all facilitated by the same official at the deeds office. This official had taken leave in the meantime, but the department says the official had applied for holiday leave which was approved and had nothing to do with the investigation.
The department's media office stressed that at this stage, it couldn't even confirm that the property transfers had been fraudulent. This is still in the process of being established. It therefore wouldn't speculate on what kind of punishment might be meted out to officials who are found to have been involved in irregularities. It did give the assurance however, that any guilty parties would be brought to book.
Meanwhile the Johannesburg Property Company (JPC) which is responsible for the sale of all Johannesburg's municipal land says its matter has been reported to the police for criminal investigation. The conveyancing attorneys involved in the transfers have also been reported to the Law Society of the Northern Provinces.
Attorneys for the JPC are currently in the process of reclaiming the properties and nullifying the sales.
A spokesperson for the police's unit for priority crimes, the Hawks confirmed that it is investigating the Johannesburg property transfers. He couldn't however, confirm that it had also been asked to investigate the Tshwane and North West matters.
Transfers of the Johannesburg properties had apparently been expedited through the deeds office on the premise that they were land reform transactions. It also appears that JPC Managing Director Helen Botes' signature had been forged on the power of attorney documents and no purchase prices were allegedly contained in them.
The Johannesburg properties involved, include the Norscott Koppies and Kingfisher Nature Reserve in Sandton and the Mushroom Park Farm in Sandown. In Pretoria 27 vacant stands in Lotus Gardens were allegedly fraudulently transferred.
Squandering productive farmland
The South African land redistribution programme, developed in 1994, is part of a government plan to hand 30 percent of all agricultural land to the black majority by the year 2014. Apart from redistribution, which enables blacks to secure loans to buy or lease land from the government, the land reform programme also includes restitution, by which black communities recover ancestral land. Click here for more info.