Property billionaire hits back at critics

2010-09-26 10:50

The billionaire businessman at the heart of a controversial ­police headquarters rental deal and a massive farm-buying spree has hit back at critics who say he used his political connections to secure multimillion-rand deals.

This week it emerged that property developer Roux Shabangu was the key figure in a scheme to buy up billions of rands of farmland across South Africa for “land restitution”. Shabangu (36) asserts that he had a government “mandate” to do so, but the Department of ­Rural Development and Land Reform says no mandate ever ­existed.

Shabangu is angry. He says the scandal around the police headquarters deal and allegations in the Sunday Times that national police commissioner Bheki Cele orchestrated the move to his buildings and bypassed the tender process is costing him R10 million a month.

“Knowing President Jacob ­Zuma is an honour, not a criminal offence,” Shabangu said this week as he sank into a leather chair in the boardroom of his company’s Centurion offices.

Shabangu’s political connections and his friendship with ­Zuma have been under scrutiny since revelations last month that he had secured a lucrative property rental deal that would see police top brass and specialist units moved to two buildings owned by him in Pretoria and Durban.

“People never think that maybe someone like me or a person of my colour has the knowledge and capability to do such deals. They think he might have a ­connection of some sort with Cele. It is not fair comment to say that.”

This week Shabangu was in the spotlight again as details emerged of his role in a 2007 and 2008 scheme to snatch up vast swathes of farmland across South Africa, purportedly as part of a land redistribution plan.

Shabangu claims he had a government “mandate” to buy millions of hectares of farmland.

But Land Department spokesman Eddie Mohoebi said no mandate was ever given to Shabangu’s holding company, Roux Property Development ­Africa, and no other companies had been mandated to acquire land.

Estate agents who spent months sourcing farms lost out on hundreds of millions of rands in commission and some farmers suffered substantial losses when the deals fell flat.

Shabangu and a network of agents employed at the Pretoria headquarters of Roux Property Development Africa and subsidiaries African Dune Investments and Sapphire Cove ­Investments 14 made numerous approaches to estate agents and farmers claiming they had billions of rands to spend on farms.

Estate agents scoured the country at his behest, and Shabangu and entourage flew to some farms by helicopter to ­inspect them.

A letter sent to estate agents stated that Roux Property Development Africa was a “wholly black-owned company” with a core business of property development and a portfolio of “more than R900 million”.

The company also has interests in mining, commodity trading and transport.

The letter set a number of guidelines for qualifying farms, including that they be commercial or grazing agricultural land or game farms.

But numerous farmers and ­estate agents who spoke to Investigations24 said that ­although offers to purchase were signed, the deals collapsed.

Shabangu is adamant that he was “tasked by government ­because of our property expertise to negotiate and get farms”.

“What was happening was that when farmers knew government wanted to buy their land for ­redistribution, the price went up. So government was trying to avoid that by getting a private company to negotiate with these farms.

“We have the mandate in black and white.”

Shabangu said he could provide a copy of the mandate, but could not do so immediately and had not provided it by the time of ­going to press.

However, he says he lost “a lot of money” when the scheme was shelved after the ANC’s ­national conference in Polokwane in 2007.

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