Madonsela probes Mpumalanga trust chair
Mbombela - A community trust chairperson has been accused of tampering with a list of
land claim beneficiaries and replacing the names of trustees with those of his
The office of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is investigating corruption
allegations against David Mabaso, who chairs the Cairn Community Trust, which
owns a lemon farm outside Mbombela.
“The public protector's office in Mpumalanga is investigating the allegations.
The complaint was lodged on September 22,” said spokesperson for Madonsela's
Pretoria office, Momelezi Kula.
Speaking for the trustees, Steven Nyasenga accused Mabaso of replacing their
names with those of his own family, who were now "running the trust as
The aggrieved trustees also accuse Mabaso of irregularly selling a portion of
land worth an estimated at R1.18m to make way for a road project.
“We registered the case with the public protector after we failed to get
assistance from police and the departments of human settlement and the
agriculture, rural development and land administration," Nyasenga said.
"We believe that the public protector will uncover whoever could be working
with our chair at government level because our names cannot just be changed
without approval from land authorities,” he added.
Nyasenga said the trust successfully claimed seven hectares of land in 1999
from the department of rural development and land reform.
The farm is among 240 farms which benefitted from an investment of nearly R100m from the department and the Land Bank's land redistribution for
agricultural development programme.
“Cairn Community Trust was awarded a 20-year contract to provide lemons to an
overseas market. It was co-funded by the department of public works, roads and
transport and we, as the beneficiaries, were told we would eventually own and
manage the farm," said Nyasenga.
He said the beneficiaries were given technical and financial training on how to
run the farm.
Nyasenga said there was also another contract to distribute lemons locally, but there
was no transparency in terms of how much the contract was generating.
He said the trustees became suspicious when the chairperson failed to update them
on the trust’s business transactions or present financial statements to the
“When we asked to see the list of beneficiaries, his family members disrupted
the meeting. Some even told us we no longer have a say in the trust. We see the
trucks coming to fetch the lemons, but we don't see the financial books,”
Rogers Banda said the trustees lived on the farm.
“We see and hear everything from members of his family. We can see the trust is
doing well as local trucks and those from Mozambique always collect stocks of
lemons from the farm.
“Even this week, there's a big order being transported to Mozambique. We don't
even know how much the Mozambique project generates,” Banda said.
Zodwa Matsane, another trustee, said the chairperson had informed them that the
provincial public works, roads and transport department had bought a portion of
land to build a road while Eskom had also bought land.
“He told us the project will generate R1.18m, but we believe it will
only benefit his family members as we know we longer appear on the list,” said
When contacted for comment and asked to produce the list of beneficiaries,
“I will not show you the list,” Mabaso said.
“I can only speak to the board of
trustees, as they are the ones who appointed me.”
Department of rural development and land reform spokesperson Zithini Dlamini said
it was up to the trustees to solve their own problems.
“The department cannot be involved in the running of the trust, as the trust in
question is operated through a constitution registered with the Master of the
High Court," he said.
He said the list of beneficiaries should be in possession of the Cairn
Community Trust as the current private owners of the land.