Squabble over tiny piece of Rama land

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

The Gauteng and North West departments of land affairs say they will soon take over control of embattled Rama, a tiny area near GaRankuwa, north of Pretoria, until infighting among the area's community leaders is resolved.

Rama was handed back to the people of Madidi in North West in 2002 following a successful restitution of land rights claim.

The Land Claims Commission gave the Rama Communal Property Association (CPA) the responsibility to manage the area on behalf of the community.

However, infighting among members of the association has ensued, making it difficult for the community to be resettled on their ancestral land.

Tumi Seboka, Gauteng and North West regional land claims commissioner, said the departments were in the process of applying for a court order to place the CPA under judicial administration.

This means the CPA would be stripped of its administrative role in Rama and placed under the jurisdiction of the national Department of Land Affairs until the conflict among the association's members had been resolved, said Seboka.

In terms of the Communal Property Association Act, the department's director-general may appoint any person with relevant skills and expertise to run the affairs of the dysfunctional CPA.

The department's intervention in Rama's affairs follows an ongoing bitter squabble between former and current members of the CPA. This has even divided the community.

Seboka said that from 2002 to date her office had tried several times to settle the dispute between the CPA's committee, the Rama Tribal Authority and the Rama beneficiaries.

"Stability would last for some time, only for the dispute to resurface," she said.

While an agreement had been reached with the Rama community, Tshwane municipality and the Gauteng housing department on how to develop Rama, continued conflict among the CPA's members disturbed this process.

"People formed groups, selling unidentified plots to non-beneficiaries, beneficiaries took the CPA to court and there were a number of interdicts and high court appearances, which stalled the process."

Simon Poo, prominent community member and former CPA chairman, confirmed that the community was facing countless problems.

Poo described the latest incident as "an illegal land swap deal" which the current CPA was negotiating with an Israeli company, Rama Horizon Developers.

If successful, Poo says the deal could see a large portion of Rama ceded to the Israeli developers in exchange for infrastructure and low-cost housing, including business development in Rama.

"The community is up in arms because the current CPA committee has no constitutional mandate to bring the developers onto the communal land," said Poo.

According to Poo, the CPA was not legal because six of the nine committee members, who included the chairman, secretary and treasurer had either been fired by the remaining three members or forced to resign and replaced with co-opted members. He also accused the CPA of embezzling community funds and failing to produce proper financial statements.

Financial statements ending for the May 2007 financial year show that accounting records were not properly maintained.

There are unauthorised cheques amounting to more than R13000 and cheques without valid invoices valued at more than R75000, Poo said.

He said the financial statement for the 2004-2005 financial year also showed funds that were not properly recorded. One was for a loan of R16000 not supported by valid invoices.

Hendrick Nthite, the CPA's current chairman, dismissed all the allegations and called on the accusers to produce proof.

He confirmed that Horizon Developers, as part of the BT Mongwe Consortium, was to develop Rama but scoffed at allegations that the committee had entered into a land swap deal with the Israelis.

He also dismissed suggestions that the CPA's functions would be taken over by the department, saying his association was constitutional. He also denied claims that most people who attended their meetings and those who registered for RDP houses were not Rama beneficiaries.

"This land belongs to Rama's people and we are going to make sure that they are the ones who benefit from it," said Nthite.

His denial contradicts the Land Claims Commission's earlier statement distancing itself from "long queues of people applying for RDP houses at the Rama CPA offices".

The commission described the acts as that of "unscrupulous elements within the community leadership, conniving with bogus consultants to frustrate the good work done by government".

Seboka said other issues, including financial mismanagement and lease extension by a quarry mine, would be investigated once the administrative take-over by the department had taken place.

She dismissed the community's allegations that more than 500 hectares of Rama's original land (part of the Medical University of SA and GaRankuwa) had not been restored to them.

She said the final agreement signed by Poo on behalf of the Rama community was "full and in final settlement of their claim".