The deputy president is one of 25 who will answer to a R1 billion civil suit for alleged political scheme against a businessperson
Deputy President David Mabuza’s alleged mafia conspiracies in Mpumalanga come under the spotlight again from Monday, in a civil trial in which businessperson and corruption whistle-blower Fred Daniel is claiming R1.09 billion in damages against the state.
According to court papers, 12 complainants told the Pretoria High Court that Mabuza, who was the Mpumalanga MEC of agriculture and land administration in 2008, was instrumental in an alleged government-sponsored scheme to harass, instigate violence, intimidate and make death threats against Daniel, his family and employees to collapse his planned Nkomazi Wilderness game farm project in the Badplaas Valley, or drive him out altogether.
Mabuza, who has previously denied all allegations of political thuggery, is cited as the seventh defendant of 24, who include politicians, government departments and agencies, and their officials.
He is a nominal defendant, meaning that no financial claim is made against him personally, but he is included because of a connection with the matter in dispute to enable the court to reach a decision and make a proper judgment.
Daniel is the whistle-blower who reported a land claim scam involving the inflation of land prices in 2005.
At the time, he was buying farms in the Badplaas area to establish his nature reserve project. Mabuza had set up and was chair of the Greater Badplaas Land Claims Committee, which is cited in court as defendant 25.
The battles between the pair date back to 2004. In 2018, Daniel lost a court bid to obtain a protection order against Mabuza.
Another application for a protection order flopped when the evidence, an affidavit penned by a woman claiming to be related to Mabuza, turned out to be a hoax.
City Press understands that journalist Rehana Rossouw is working on a book that tells Daniel’s story, called Predator Politics.
Mabuza served as agriculture and land administration MEC until 2009. He then became premier of the province until 2018.
Last year, he was appointed as the country’s deputy president.
The office of the deputy president said it was aware that the case was going to court on Monday.
“As it is now sub judice, we should allow the process of law to take its course,” it said.
City Press heard that the start of the hearing on Monday might focus on ironing out technicalities, including whether the number of witnesses expected to testify will be processed within the month allocated by the court.
However, those close to Daniel said he was opposed to the lengthy trial the defendants were pushing for, which would possibly result in years of delays before a trial date was set, thereby hitting his pocket while the defendants enjoyed the luxury of state funding.
Daniel is suing the state for “loss of corporate opportunities and loss of profit for the various plaintiffs, loss of land values, loss of prospective profits, damages to the property and investments of plaintiffs, and prejudice to the good names and reputations of plaintiffs”.
The court heard in papers that “such losses, damages and prejudice could reasonably have, and should have, been avoided had the various defendants at all relevant times acted lawfully and without exerting duress on the plaintiffs”.
At the beginning of 2008, Daniel owned fixed properties in the Badplaas Valley through four of his companies, whose properties comprised the project known as the Cradle of Life Nkomazi Wilderness. He also owned 19 portions of land in the area through an investment company.
Before acquiring the properties totalling 39 000 hectares, the court heard that Daniel had detailed enquiries and investigations made to ascertain whether land claims existed or whether the properties could legally be susceptible to land claims.
The enquiries and investigations showed that no land claims existed and no valid land claims could be lodged against the properties.
However, Mabuza, together with officials from the regional land claims commissioner in Mpumalanga and the Greater Badplaas Land Claims Committee, allegedly “orchestrated land claims being lodged against properties in the Badplaas Valley, including the land of the Nkomazi Reserve, which land comprised the exact boundaries that the plaintiffs had identified for the project”.
In 2005, the first plaintiff, Grand Valley Estates – a company owned by Daniel – agreed to a R283 million upgrade of the reserve’s infrastructure, with Kerzner International to design, build and operate a One&Only safari lodge on the Nkomazi Reserve to create a seven-star Big Five private game reserve.
By 2006, the Development Bank of Southern Africa had put in R34.7 million in support of the project and was willing to commit another R75 million to empower the nearby Inkaleni community.
Through Kerzner International, Daniel met a representative of a group of entities called Dubai World, which promised to fund the project following a joint venture agreement, but this eventually failed.
“The misrepresentations made by Dubai World relating to its funding obligations led to deliberate short-cuts in developing the Nkomazi project, which included the circumvention of environmental laws and the non-fulfilment of the suspensive conditions of the sale agreement.
“In retaliation for insisting that the project be developed lawfully and in ignoring the resultant environmental violations, Dubai World opportunistically colluded with corrupt provincial officials who hated [Daniel] for exposing corruption.
This caused the joint venture agreement to fail and, consequently, led to a failure of the joint venture relationship in general during or about October 2007,” read the court documents.
The parties allegedly colluded to kick Daniel out of the project and, in the process, steps were allegedly taken by the defendants to enable Dubai World to purchase Nkomazi Wilderness from Daniel’s companies at a much lower purchase price than it would have yielded had government not withheld wildlife permits, which “crippled the project”.
Mabuza was allegedly one of the officials who played a role in blocking the issuing of wildlife permits to Daniel.
It is alleged that once the defendants succeeded in driving the plaintiffs out of the project with the help of Dubai World staff, Dubai World was granted the permits.
In 2008, Nkomazi Wilderness was purchased for R120 million plus liabilities for assets worth R125.5 million, which totals R245.5 million.
It is further alleged that, when the defendants realised that the plaintiffs had not sold all their interests in Badplaas, “they incited and orchestrated the destruction of the fence at the travel port on the R33 road and mobilised members of the community to illegally gather and block the road at the entrance to the [project]”.
The state officials allegedly began to present “frivolous and fictitious land claims over Daniel’s properties and arranged violent public demonstrations and blockades on and near the plaintiffs’ properties”, including running a media campaign to discredit him.
The stakes went up to “instigating violence and intimidation, and making death threats against and harassing the eleventh plaintiff, his family and employees to collapse his business and/or drive him out of the Badplaas Valley altogether”.
This included threats to liquidate Grand Valley Estates to force Daniel to sell, and allegedly “laying trumped-up and false criminal charges” against him.
Should the legal costs for state officials implicated in this lawsuit be footed by government or come out of their own pockets?
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