More drama in land deal

2012-06-30 19:05

Lack of progress angers community members

Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti is refusing to sign off on a controversial R400-million deal centred on one of South Africa’s ­biggest land claims.

The Dube community, from ­KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast near Stanger, won back its land in 2009 in one of the country’s most expensive land-claim settlements.

But, three years on, the ­­multi-faceted deal continues to stir up ­controversy.

In the latest dispute, landowner Ushukela Milling has approached the land court in Randburg, Johannesburg, to force Nkwinti to immediately pay up. Ushukela is owned by politically connected sugar tycoon Patrick Sokhela.

Sokhela and his company are citing a 2010 agreement between Ushukela and former acting land claims commissioner Sibusiso Gamede as grounds for the court­ ­action.

But in his responding affidavit, Nkwinti said Gamede had no authority to conclude the ­R400-million deal at the time, ­because the department was facing “liquidation” and spending had been reined in.

Nkwinti said in his affidavit he was concerned about “the complex beneficiation arrangements forming part of the settlement”.
Sokhela did not respond to ­requests for comment.

Tracts of land owned by Ushukela form part of phase two of the Dube land claim.

Sokhela, as the chairperson and owner of Ushukela, did not oppose the land claim. He entered into talks with the department of land affairs in a bid to settle the claims and negotiate compensation.

In phase one of the deal, the community’s 687 households won back their land and then immediately resold it to a development company, Blythedale Coastal Resort (BCR).

The sale was in exchange for a 20% stake in BCR and the promise of R194 million once the resort was developed.

The other part of phase one ­involved Ushukela Milling, which sold its Addington farm for R400 million.

The community was compelled to make the land available for the ­development of the Royal Shaka ­Estates, again in exchange for a 20% stake.

The Selwa Trust, of which Sokhela is also a director, owns 80% of the new company developing Royal Shaka Estates.

Royal Shaka Estates undertook to develop a new estate to the tune of R5 billion as part of the deal.

Community leader Musa Dube said: “But Sokhela has done nothing. At least for all their faults, BCR have sold stands and drawn up plans. With Royal Shaka there is nothing.”

The lack of progress on both deals has angered the Dube community.

Nkwinti got involved when he started probing the land deals at the Dube community’s request.

He halted any payment linked to phase two because he wanted to ­understand the deals.
 

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