Land Bank taken to court over disputed farm loans

2009-09-19 14:15

AN increasing number of accusations are being levelled at the Land Bank about over-recovery of interest and unlawful debits on farmers’ loan accounts.

The Cape High Court has even postponed a sale of execution ­because of questions about a ­particular account.

Cost-accounting consultant Emerald van Zyl says he has gone through various farmers’ loan-account statements at the Land Bank and discovered ­instances of over-recovery.

Sake24 has been asked not to reveal the identity of the farmers concerned because it is regarded as a personal embarrassment when one’s property is attached.

Sake24 nevertheless has in its possession copies of the accounts and court findings.

Van Zyl said that earlier this year he was involved in the recalculation of a Land Bank loan in the estate of a West Coast farmer. It was evident that the bank had written R1.9 million back to the account just before he started the recalculation.

“I found a further R950?000 over-recovery on the account ­because the bank in my view had used an incorrect method of ­calculating interest and had charged interest and diverse debits to which it was not entitled to,” said Van Zyl.

He also examined the statements of a De Doorns, Western Cape, farmer ­after the bank proposed to sell his farm on auction because the accounts had not been properly serviced.

Van Zyl said he found similar errors in the Land Bank’s calculations and had identified an over-recovery of R1.1 million.

The legal representatives of the farmer concerned approached the Cape Town High Court and Judge Siraj Desai ­postponed the auction based on the evidence. Desai said the application for setting aside the writ of attachment would be heard in March next year.

In a third example cited by Van Zyl he found that the Land Bank had advanced R300 000 to a farmer. Ten years later the bank had demanded R1.8?million from him.

Van Zyl says this violates the in duplum principle, which stipulates that interest that accrues may not exceed the original debt. In this instance the maximum that the bank is able to claim is therefore R600 000.

He says that farmers who have lost their farms through sales of execution by the Land Bank could possibly be resettled on similar farms by the bank if ­similar irregularities were found in their accounts.

“If the over-recovered amount on their loan accounts is larger than the amount allegedly in ­arrears, they can approach the court to set aside the judgment and they must accordingly be ­restored to their former positions because the Land Bank sold their farms unlawfully,” Van Zyl said.

Over the past four weeks Sake24 has repeatedly approached the Land Bank for comment but was told each time that the bank’s ­legal division was looking into the matter. –

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