Forensic probe into a failed land reform project is taking shape

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Conrad van Eyssen and Mapoko Mabelane. Photo: Tebogo Letsie/City Press
Conrad van Eyssen and Mapoko Mabelane. Photo: Tebogo Letsie/City Press


Government has appointed a private firm to investigate allegations relating to the mismanagement of funds at a failed land reform project in Mpumalanga.

City Press understands that department of agriculture, land reform and rural development director-general Mooketsa Ramasodi announced internally on January 9 that Morar Incorporated had been appointed to conduct a forensic probe into allegations affecting the Mabelane Communal Property Association (CPA).

This was despite the department's announcement in 2021 that the investigation was under way.

At the time, City Press exposed that the CPA project, which envisaged a game farm with four lodges, had collapsed and that a clan had run it.

There were allegations that the CPA, previously known as the Batau Ga Mabelane, had sidelined other families, including the Sebulela, Maphanga, Mabilo, Malope, Makhubedu, Maidas and Mopane, who were part of the land claim in 2009.

READ: Clan torn apart by land restitution as forensic investigation begins

It also transpired that the CPA had mentors who were appointed to assist in the running of the project.

There have been allegations and counter-allegations between the previous CPA [dominated by the Mabelane clan] that inherited the land to run the project, the department, mentors and CPA members, who took over from the Mabelanes.

According to information that City Press has seen, Ramasodi announced that the firm had been appointed by his department’s directorate for forensic investigations at the chief directorate: internal audit, falling under his office.

He said the firm had been appointed to conduct a comprehensive forensic investigation into the CPA.

READ: How a tourist attraction land reform project failed

Reggie Ngcobo, the spokesperson for the department’s Minister Thoko Didiza, said that, from time to time, the department appointed private firms to ensure the independence of investigations.

Ngcobo mentioned: 

The investigation is ongoing and, at this stage, we can’t divulge much on it as it could affect the investigation.

Theledi Sebulela, the chairperson of the executive committee that took over from the Mabelanes, who has also been instrumental in the calls for the department to conduct an investigation, said they were scheduled to meet with the firm later this week.

Morar Incorporated head of forensic accounting and investigations Vinay Bositsumune confirmed that they were conducting the probe following a competitive bidding process. 

However, Bositsumune declined to share details. "Due to the sensitive nature of the investigations, we are not authorised to disclose the terms of reference."

But, he said that the investigation had commenced and it was expected to be completed in three months.

‘Full access to info’

Ramasodi said the firm:

*Will have unrestricted, full and free access to the department’s functions, records, property and computers, including official cellphones and personnel;

*Will allocate resources, set frequencies, select subjects, determine the scope of work (where necessary) and apply the techniques required to accomplish investigation objects; and

*Will obtain the necessary assistance of personnel (including interviews) in all departmental offices where investigations are to be conducted, as well as other specialised services from within and outside the department.

READ: Land restitution mentor faces probe for abuse of funds

However, Ramasodi said the firm was not authorised to perform any operational duties for the department, or initiate or approve accounting transactions external to its forensic investigations' directorate, except to the extent that such departmental employees had been appropriately assigned to investigation teams or to assist with forensic investigators.

The firm, Ramasodi said, was also not authorised to assume responsibility for the functions, processes and systems of risk management and internal control.

He also instructed officials to assist the firm with the required information and documents.

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