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Mpumalanga bought farm for R37.5m, a year after declaring it lacked funds

Mandla Khoza Freelance journalist
Former state security minister Bongani Bongo at the Nelspruit magistrates's court where he and others appeared for multiple corruption charges. File picture
Former state security minister Bongani Bongo at the Nelspruit magistrates's court where he and others appeared for multiple corruption charges. File picture
Image: Mandla Khoza

The Mpumalanga department of human settlements wanted to buy a farm in Emalahleni in 2010 but "did not have the funds", only to buy it for R37.5m the following year.

This is part of evidence that came out in the R74m land deal trial in the Nelspruit commercial crimes court on Tuesday.

Director of supply chain management in the department Thabo Mashile told the court that in 2010 during the time of requisition for the buying of the Naauwpoort farm in Emalahleni, the department did not have money or budget to purchase it.

He said the representative of Naauwpoort farm owner Petrus van Tonder, who came during the negotiations, charged way too much and the department could not afford it.

“The representative, on behalf of the farm owner in Emalahleni, charged more. I think his money was around R38m and above hence we had to negotiate. However, at the time the department had financial constraints which we were directed to proceed with the procurement of the land in Emakhazeni (Belfast).

"The purchase of the Emalahleni land had to be stalled until the appropriation budget in October the same year,” said Mashile.

He read onto the record a letter from the office of the CFO, stating that the department had no money.

Former state security minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo, his ex-wife Sandile Nkosi, Robert Burwise, Patrick Donald Chirwa, Herrington Dlamini, Blessing Mduduzi Singwane, David Boy Dube (former HOD), Vusi Willem Magagula, Bongani Louis Henry Sibiya, Elmon Lawrence Mdaka and Sibongile Mercy Mdaka are on trial in relation to the land deals.

The accused were arrested by the Hawks in October 2020 on charges of money laundering, theft, corruption, fraud and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

They are charged alongside four companies: The Little River Trading 156, Broad Market Trading 204, Bongiveli and Pfuka Afrika.

They all pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.

Charges against Bongo's brother Sipho were withdrawn on Monday after prosecutor Adv Henry Nxumalo said they could not find a key witness in the case. The witness was believed to be abroad.

Bongo and Singwane had charges of corruption and money laundering withdrawn against them.

Bongo was the department’s head of legal services in 2011 when the accused allegedly colluded to inflate the prices of two farms purchased on behalf of the department.

The farm owners allegedly only received a portion of the funds the department paid, with the accused apparently pocketing the rest.

The trial continues.

newsdesk@sowetan.co.za



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