‘It’s all about politics’ – officials who paid R116m for Limpopo land worth R8m

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Cooperative Governance Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs MEC Makoma Makhurupetje Picture: Phuti Raletjena
Cooperative Governance Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs MEC Makoma Makhurupetje Picture: Phuti Raletjena

Limpopo officials accused of costing the provincial government R108 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure claim that they were “put under pressure to conclude the transaction” by their political boss, Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs MEC Makoma Makhurupetje.

Makhurupetje had threatened to take “action” against her chief director of local government, Rogers Monama, and deputy director-general of corporate services, Gregory Makoko, and instructed them to explain why they should not suffer the consequences for the allegedly inflated payment for land in the Greater Tubatse Local municipality.

But the duo hit back earlier this month in a letter through their lawyers, Mpoyana Ledwaba Inc, saying that they acted under Makhurupetje’s “instructions and guidance” and that she often took it personally when the transaction was not moving as speedily as she preferred.

“She was kept informed throughout the entire process and the department had been put under pressure by her to conclude the transaction as well as our clients often being accused of sabotaging her when the process was not moving at a pace fast enough to her satisfaction.

“The information that was at the disposal of both Makoko and Monama was also at the MEC’s disposal. It is absurd that it is now said that only Makoko and Monama failed to exercise due diligence. If they failed to exercise due diligence, the same ought to be said in respect of the MEC,” the lawyers said.

Both Makurupetje and Monama are ANC heavyweights in the province, the former serving as deputy secretary and the latter as a member of the provincial executive committee.

Those sympathetic to Monama have claimed that Makhurupetja was fighting “a political battle” against Monama because he was among the group opposed to the lobby for her to become “the first female premier of Limpopo”.

She has been dubbed the local chief lobbyist for former African Union chairperson Nkosaza Dlamini-Zuma’s ANC presidential campaign.

The department bought portion 10 of farm Mooifontein 313KT including Tubatse Township extensions 54, 58, 71 and 72 in Burgersfort in the Sekhukhune district in October 2015. During the audit reports for the 2015-2016 financial year the Auditor-General found that the piece of land had been bought for R116 million but it was actually worth R8 million.

The department had brought in the Hawks to investigate a case of fraud and corruption.

Mpoyana Ledwaba Inc said in their clients’ letter that, at the time the deal was signed, Makoko had been the acting head of department and the process was initiated long before he was appointed.

“The [alleged] conduct that happened was during his acting tenure as head of department appointed by the premier [Stan Mathabatha] and it is the premier and not the head of department or MEC who has authority to take action against a person appointed by the premier”.

In any event the MEC has already pre-judged the matter and the matter should be referred to Mathabatha for his attention, the lawyers said, adding that there was “a clear expression of prejudice and that the MEC has prejudged the matter”.

“We find this to be unacceptable in the light of the fact that if there is any disciplinary action which might be taken against any other official within the department in respect of this matter, she will be the appeal authority,” the letter said.

They claimed that there was “a reasonable suspicion that the principle of being innocent until proven guilty principle will not be applied,” as well as “the question of the fairness of the MEC and whether she should be the one to drive this process”.

The MEC has further been involved with this specific transaction from the onset and is manifestly conflicted, read the letter.

Mpoyana Ledwaba Inc said that “all stipulated conditions set out by the provincial treasury in its granted authorisation had to be satisfied for the land acquisition process to be deemed to be above board and beyond reproach”.

Legal services reviewed the signed contract to ensure legal compliance and clarity, while the regulatory and compliance unit was further requested to vet the agreement of purchase and sale for the acquisition.

The National Housing Development Agency was asked to produce and provide three valuation reports from independent valuators, which were used as a basis for negotiations with the landowner, the letter said.

Also, “a due diligence report to mitigate against risk of acquiring land which is not suitable for human settlements was submitted” and the municipality submitted a motivation that the land would be used for the purpose of human settlement.

“All of the aforesaid were duly complied with and it is absurd that a single valuator’s report seems to be accepted without reasons being proved why the three other previously obtained reports are unacceptable ... In the light of KPMG’s scandal the department should be cautious in the way it considers reports by professionals,” the lawyers said, referring to a recent scandal where the globally recognised audit firm had to publicly withdraw one of its reports over lack of credibility.

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