A household and two friends were granted bail in the Laaiplek Magistrate’s Court after they were charged with allegedly defrauding the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform of more than R6 million through its land grant programme.
Willem Klaase, his wife Martha Klaase, their daughter Marga, sons Wilbur Klaase and Alberto, and friends, Brian Phillipus and Elton Smith, were granted bail of R3,000 each, with an added condition they cannot change residential addresses without informing the investigating officer.
The group was arrested on Tuesday by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team after an intelligence-driven operation was conducted in Laaiplek, Vredenberg, and Saldanha.
In 2000, Willem, 67, had been a part-time farmer for years and approached the department to enquire about the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) grant.
The grant is meant to allow previously disadvantaged black South Africans to acquire farms to change land ownership patterns in South Africa, for the beneficiaries to actively participate in the agricultural economy to ensure food security, stability in national food markets and to ensure profitability and for the beneficiaries to optimally develop the land acquired. It is also meant to acquire equity in existing agricultural enterprises if the security of tenure is ensured.
In 2003, Willem applied for the grant to purchase the “Rietvlei” located in the Aurora District in Piketberg.
His application was unsuccessful due to a lack of funding, but in May 2006 he reapplied and between November 2007 and October 31, 2008, Willem, along with a facilitator and business planning agent, submitted a project business plan in the name of Willem Klaase Projek: Welbeloon Boerdery Trust, along with various other supporting documents and other representations.
Western Cape spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Eric Ntabazalila said: “They requested the department to allocate the still to-be established trust a LRAD grant with a view to purchasing Portion 6 (De La Rey) of the farm Pampoene Kraal No.33 in Piketberg, for R3 million and all movable implements and livestock to the value of R1,68 million.
“They registered the trust at the office of the Master of the High Court on April 4, 2008. The accused, his family members, and the two friends became trustees, and 43 other individuals were appointed as beneficiaries of the trust.
“In their application, they indicated that 49 adults, five households, 25 women, 17 young people, seven pensioners and 20 unemployed people will benefit,” he said.
Ntabazalila said the application also indicated the applicants were emerging farmers with experience in small-scale and commercial farming.
They also claimed they came from a background of subsistence farming with sheep, pigs, cattle, vegetable productions and poultry, with the majority of the individuals working most of their lives in the agricultural sector.
Some applicants also indicated they attended short training courses related to farming such as poultry, sheep and pastures and they had also mentioned some applicants had already commenced participation in a training programme presented by Potato South Africa.
“The proposed farming activities were to comprise 20ha of potatoes, 150 ha of oats, 150 ha of lupines and 800 sheep. Between October 14 and 31, 2008 the Provincial Grants Committee (PGC) and the Acting Chief Director of the Department approved the application and R6.2 million was paid,” Ntabazalila said.
Willem and his wife, Martha approached beneficiaries with the offer to be beneficiaries of the trust to assist them to obtain the farm.
The court heard they provided beneficiaries with pre-filled in forms to sign. The forms misrepresented the work status of some of the beneficiaries indicating they had worked for private companies, however, investigations later revealed they were working for a parastatal which disqualified them from benefiting from the LRAD grant.
“The State alleges the accused conspired, agreed, and decided to obtain the LRAD grant from the department in order to purchase the farm and its movable implements and livestock solely to benefit Willem and his family.
“The accused caused the department to incur unauthorised expenditure on the farm in the amount of R6,283,867,” Ntabazalila said.
The group was also ordered not to interfere with witnesses in the matter.
The matter has been postponed until July 24 for further investigation and for the matter to be transferred to the Bellville Commercial Crimes Court in Cape Town.