Gamalakhe a hot-spot in ‘massive’ land claims scam

2011-08-29 00:00

Gamalakhe a hot-spot in ‘massive’ land claims scam

THE Department of Rural Development and Land Reform has released a report noting its “great concern” about the recent development of fraud and corruption relating to its land restitution programme.

Deputy manager for communications, Nokuthokoza Ndlela, said the department has established that the restitution programme has become the target of criminals.

“They are taking advantage of the loopholes in the system for their own financial gains.”

She said the regional restitution office in KwaZulu-Natal has been the hardest hit by these criminals.

Gamalakhe in Port Shepstone is one of the hot-spots that the crime syndicates have targeted.

“A sum estimated to be R97 000 and a list of people alleged to have paid the syndicates were confiscated from a house at Gamalakhe belonging to one of the syndicates,” Ndlela said.

In April the ministry learnt that people were collecting money from claimants and promising to fast-track the processing of their claims for restitution of their land rights.

As a result, in June officials were held hostage in the Ugu District offices by claimants who alleged that they had paid money for their claims to be finalised.

“They were waiting for their vouchers to be distributed. The police had to rescue the officials from the angry mob.”

Ndlela said these events prompted the department to investigate the issue.

“Ward councillors from Hibiscus Coast Municipality provided information about the syndicate and a criminal fraud and corruption case was opened at the Gamalakhe police station on 10 June,” she said.

It is apparent that the scam has spread to other districts in KwaZulu-Natal and has affected a number of people in the province.

Victims have started to come forward.

The department has indicated that the scam “is massive” and that “urgent action” needs to be taken by both the department’s security services and the law enforcement agencies to bring the criminals to book, Ndlela said.

“The department has been informed that an estimated 8 600 people have paid money to these criminals, ranging from R200 to R1 000 per person.”

The department has made an appeal to communities to refrain from paying money to people who claim to be representing it because this will perpetuate the scam.

“Communities should direct all their inquiries to the department,” said Ndlela.

“If they suspect any criminal wrongdoing they must call the department’s toll-free number 080 000 7095.” — Witness Reporter.

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