Ezemvelo’s dud land deal

2018-11-13 15:30

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Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife bought a farm in Ulundi and sold it off to the state at a R5 million loss less than three years later.

The conservation entity sold the property, Koningskroon Farm, to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development this year after realising that the land is a sacred place for the Zulu royal family.

Located 10 kilometres outside Ulundi, Koningskroon is part of the Ema­khosini valley, and King Goodwill Zwelithini and other members of the Zulu royal family pay regular visits to it to pay homage to their ancestors buried there.

The previous owner of the farm, Paul Smith, who sold the property to Ezemvelo in 2015, said “The farm forms part of the Zulu royals’ spiritual home. Technically speaking, no one except the royal family should be allowed to have control of that land.

“When I was running the farm there were several areas within the property where I couldn’t go because they represented a spiritual value to the Zulu royal family — these are sacred places.”

Ezemvelo, which falls under the provincial Tourism Department, bought the farm from Smith’s UPATA Ranches CC for R21 million. The conservation entity also bought a portion of an adjacent farm for R4 million. It has since turned out that when Ezemvelo bought the property, its bosses did not have a clue about Zwelithini’s spiritual connection to the farm.

Briefing the KwaZulu-Natal’s public accounts committee (Scopa), Ezemvelo chief financial officer Darius Chitate told MPLs that Ezemvelo was not aware of the farm’s historical significance when it purchased the property.

“When we discovered that the farm had graves of a heritage value, we then sold it to the national government,” he said.

While Chitate, who said the farm was bought as part of the expansion of Ezemvelo’s property portfolio, insists that there were no losses in the two deals, Deeds Office records show that Koningskroon was sold for R16 million, a R5 million loss.

While the KwaZulu-Natal government’s provincial heritage conservation agency, Amafa, has recently been acquiring some farms in the area with the objective of creating a heritage tourism hub, Amafa acting chief executive, Vikinduku Mnculwane, said the purchase by Ezemvelo was not part of the initiative. “Amafa was not involved in the purchase of the Koningskroon farm,” he said.

Zulu kings buried in the valley include Phunga, Mageba, Ndaba, Jama, Senzangakhona and DinuZulu.

A 2013 archeological survey commission by Amafa found that the farm has several sacred sites. “The site is seen as sacred and men are not allowed to strike or even touch the ground with their sticks in fear of disturbing the spirits of their ancestors,” the survey report, compiled by Pelser Archaeological Consulting firm, found.

Ezemvelo is currently struggling to stay afloat due to low revenues and poor management.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it was concerned about Ezemvelo’s latest deal. “If these sales figures are accurate, then we need to be informed who signed off on these agreements and why they were sold for substantially less than purchased. This appears to be nothing more than an absolute waste of provincial money and there needs to be accountability and consequences,” the DA’s chief whip in the KZN Legislature, Francois Rodgers, said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ezemvelo kzn wildlife

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