Land Dept ordered to pay up

2010-04-19 00:00

THE high court in Pietermaritzburg last week granted three separate orders enforcing agreements of sale in respect of properties that the government has bought from private landowners on behalf of land claimants.

The orders were obtained against the Rural Development and Land Reform Minister as well as the chief land claims commissioner and deputy director of finance in the department. They were obtained on behalf of the DPA Trust represented by Berendina van der Peet, Diana van der Wiel, and R.H. Pepworth (Pty) Ltd.

The department has to pay half the agreed purchase price of the various properties within 30 days of service of the court order, and the balance within 10 days of registration of the transfer.

The department will also be required to pay daily interest at the legal rate dating back to when the agreements were finalised.

According to court papers, the state reached agreements with the landowners dating in 2008 and 2009 to purchase various tracts of land, but failed to make the payments as agreed.

Van der Peet and Bruce Pepworth alleged in affidavits that letters dated December 9 last year were issued by Thami Mdlalose, the director, legal support for the chief land claims commissioner, acknowledging liability to the landowners.

According to the affidavits, the letters state that the department is facing funding constraints and is not in a position to make payments as it has spent its budgetary allocation for the financial year ending March 2010, but that the department remains committed to acquiring the land.

Mdlalose further asked if the sellers would agree to a delayed payment until this April.

Pepworth said Mdlalose had made similar statements on at least four occasions in 2009.

The breach by the state of its obligations resulted in the landowners suffering financial loss and embarrassment.

The land concerned is a portion of Lange Hoop farm sold by the DPA Trust to the department for R4 600 000. It was bought on behalf of the Azibuye Emasisweni Maqamu Community Trust in June 2008.

Pepworth (Pty) Ltd sold a portion of the farm Murchison to the state on behalf of the Mavundla Community Trust for R1 250 000 in May 2009.

The state also agreed to purchase a portion of Murchison farm, Alfredia Farm and Baboon Spruit Farm from Pepworth (Pty) Ltd at a total cost of R21 389 686 in February 2009.

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