Land reform officials suspended over corruption

TWO senior officials of the KwaZulu-Natal department of rural development and land reform have been suspended.

The deputy director Promise Makhanya and chief planner Sbu Chapi were suspended for alleged corruption relating to seven farms the department has bought in the Elandslaagte area.

"Three labour tenant families had claimed two of the farms," said a senior source in the department.

"The department then consolidated seven farms and set up a legal entity to take transfer of the farms.

"But simultaneously another legal entity with the same name was set up but with different beneficiaries.

"When the time for the land to be transferred came, the second legal entity was submitted to the conveyancers, thus excluding the labour tenant claimants, who were subsequently threatened with eviction."

Department spokesperson Sipho Dlamini said: "We confirm that two of our staff members have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigations." He declined to name the officials.

Attempts to contact Makhanya and Chapi were unsuccessful as their phones were switched off.

Association for Rural Advancement director John Aitcheson said they welcomed the suspensions.

"These allegations implicate officials working for the department and other members of society, including estate agents, land owners and powerful businessmen in rural communities," he said.

He said corruption resulted in the sidelining of land reform policy objectives and the undue enrichment of people not entitled to it.

"We call on the department to investigate all allegations of corruption and to take appropriate action ."