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Officials fingered in R36m land deals

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Published Oct 1, 2012

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KwaZulu-Natal - The KZN Land Reform Department has been bleeding millions of rand through fake land claims facilitated by its own corrupt officials.

Court papers filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court allege that former department official Promise Makhanya has been involved in another dodgy land claim deal in Winterton.

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Makhanya, deputy director of land affairs in Ladysmith, was suspended in 2010 amid claims that she was involved in a R36 million land claim scandal in Ladysmith.

Acting chief director of the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, Bonginkosi Zulu, said that while Makhanya was dismissed earlier this year, charges against her still stood.

In a statement, the anti-corruption task team, which includes the Land Reform Department, Special Investigating Unit, police, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and National Prosecuting Service, said the Winterton case was part of a huge continuing investigation which had already led to four farms worth more than R52m being forfeited and several officials held for alleged fraud and corruption.

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In an affidavit filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in August, AFU head Knorx Molelle said investigations had revealed that a land redistribution grant of R22m for the Amaswazi community, near Winterton, had been fraudulently obtained.

The unit secured a high court order preserving three of the farms that had been bought with the land grant, pending a forfeiture application.

R11m of the grant was used to buy the farms in 2008.

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In his affidavit, Molelle said Makhanya had “appointed” herself project officer in spite of another official, Nonhlanhla Shabalala, already performing this function. Makhanya then hired a farm manager, Mel Singh, and made payments from the remaining R9m without the trustees’ knowledge. - The Mercury

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