Madonsela probes Mpumalanga trust chair

2011-10-02 22:21

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 own relatives.

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 their own".

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.

Overseas market

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 trust.

“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,” Nyasenga said.

Rogers Banda said the trustees lived on the farm.

Eskom

“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 Matsane.

When contacted for comment and asked to produce the list of beneficiaries, Mabaso refused.

“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.”

Own problem

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.


 

Read more on:    thuli mandonsela  |  corruption  |  land
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