A ‘crazy’ purchase

2019-12-06 15:34
Property-owner Jabulani Mjwara said the location of the land he sold to Msunduzi for R23 million next to the sought-after Intaba Ridge estate justified the high price.

Property-owner Jabulani Mjwara said the location of the land he sold to Msunduzi for R23 million next to the sought-after Intaba Ridge estate justified the high price. (clive ndou)

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The Msunduzi Municipality, which owns a piece of land in Bisley invaded in an organised landgrab, bought it at a price almost five times higher than the market value. It is also subject to an investigation into deals done by disgraced former municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe.

According to records from the Deeds Office, the land, which forms part of the Foxhill Lamontvale farm owned by controversial businessman Jabulani Mjwara, was purchased by the municipality in 2017 for R23 million. Evaluators put the price of the land at less than R5 million.

The deal between Msunduzi and Mjwara’s company, Ibhubesi Business Enterprises, was approved by former municipal manager Sizwe Hadebe, who a few months ago was asked to resign amid a string of internal charges against him. Mjwara, who still owns a remainder of the farm, is the former provincial Agriculture Department head, who resigned under a cloud in 2007.

The land invaders, who this week were clearing land on property belonging to both the municipality and Mjwara, were using graders and other equipment in preparation for erecting illegal houses.

Mjwara left the Agriculture Department shortly after being charged with multiple counts of gross financial misconduct. He then took up an executive position at the University of Fort Hare, but subsequently left after being suspended over R10 million in unauthorised expenditure.

The municipality had intended to turn the 97 hectares of land it had purchased from Mjwara into a cemetery.

It has since emerged that the municipality’s purchase of the piece of land at an inflated price was one of the reasons that led to Hadebe, who had been facing a disciplinary process, being asked to resign.

However, Mjwara, who — according to Deeds Office records — bought the farm for less than a R1 million in 2004, insisted that neither he nor senior municipal officials who concluded the deal had done anything wrong.

“It was a willing-buyer willing-seller kind of a deal. Yes, those who don’t know much about land might think that the municipality was overcharged, but if you look at the property developments such as Intaba Ridge, which is just next to my property, land goes for about R750 000 a quarter of a hectare.

“If you take all factors into account, including the fact that I rezoned the property, then you will come to the conclusion that the municipality paid a fair price,” he said.

While Mjwara insisted that the municipality got a fair deal, he acknowledged that he was currently in talks with the municipal bosses over the deal.

“If there is a problem with the price they paid for the property, I will be more than willing to listen.

“What I’m opposed to is this thing of people invading private land … if anyone is of the view that there was something wrong with the deal then they should use the correct channels to register their dissatisfaction,” he said.

However, DA Msunduzi councillor Bill Lambert said apart from the exorbitantly high price, the land was unacceptable for a cemetery.

“As the DA we were totally opposed to the deal from the onset. We were of the view that it was completely crazy for the municipality to purchase the land.

“There are rocks all over the place and there is simply no way that it could be turned into a cemetery,” he said.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said she was yet to establish whether there were currently any processes to recoup part of the money spent on the piece of land it had purchased from Mjwara.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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