KZN politician accused of building house on 'stolen land’
KwaZulu-Natal / 1 September 2019, 12:30pm / Mervyn Naidoo and Nkululeko Nene
At the centre of the land-grab saga is a mega mansion built on a hill with panoramic views that has allegedly been illegally built on land belonging to Crown Hill Properties, a Durban-based company.
The daughter of the businesswoman, a construction developer, claimed that her mother was the owner of the palatial house that has views of King Shaka International Airport and the Moses Mabhida Stadium, but was not prepared to speak on the record.
Locals living in Inanda’s eTafuleni area were also guarded when they spoke about the ownership of the “isithabathaba somuzi” (mansion), but some confirmed it was a politician’s home. A well-placed police source said they believed that the house in question belonged to the politician.
Construction work on the multi-tiered house is at an advanced stage, although the directors of Crown Hill Properties successfully obtained a high court order to halt all land grabs and construction on their vast expanse of land in 2017.
Meanwhile, local tribal Chief, (Inkosi) Mqoqi Bernard Ngcobo, has been identified as the person allegedly responsible for the spate of land grabs in Inanda since 2016.
He was cited as a respondent in the Crown Properties court matter. It is alleged that Ngcobo had facilitated the sale of various pieces of land in Inanda through his izinduna (headmen), and the selling price usually ranged between R30 000 and R200 000.
Two of Ngcobo’s izinduna (Khekhe Ngcobo and Robert Shangase) were arrested during a Hawks sting operation in November over the illegal sale of land in the Tea Estate area of Inanda.
Both men appeared briefly at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in connection with the charges they faced this week. The matter was adjourned to later this month.
Ngcobo and his izinduna were also listed as respondents, along with the eThekwini Municipality, in the urgent court application brought by 10 local farmers belonging to the Tea Estate Farming Organisation in May.
In the interim judgment granted, the court ordered that the respondents refrain from declaring the farmers’ land as “tribal land”.
They were also instructed not to sell portions of land belonging to the organisation’s members, or to incite people to invade land, erect fences on grabbed land or destroy crops and property belonging to farmers.
The respondents were given a month from the date the order was served to remove structures and fencing they had illegally erected on the affected land.
But Ngcobo disagreed with the orders and believed the court would eventually rule in his favour.
He made his feelings known when he addressed his subjects outside the courthouse where izinduna Ngcobo and Shangase had appeared on Thursday.
Ngcobo asked why people were concerned about the land that belonged to his people and the Ingonyama Trust.
He said the issue of title deeds was a huge concern because it failed to take into account historical facts about land ownership.
“Why are they not concerned about hectares of land located along the N3 when travelling to Joburg, which is owned by white farmers. I also want a solution to this, but there has never been an opportunity to have a proper engagement on this issue and find a solution.
“I will never allow a farmer to own huge hectares of land while our people are suffering. They are living on the cliffs, where the soil is not arable. We remain hopeful that the court will rule in our favour,” Ngcobo said.
He said that people who required land to build homes were welcome to contact his headmen.
Businessman Calvin Mojalefa Mathibeli, who was also listed as a respondent in the Crown Hill court matter, confirmed he had acquired land in Inanda from Ngcobo.
Mathibeli took issue with being the only resident mentioned in the court papers when there were many others, including a well-known gospel singer.
He said he was on a business trip in England when he heard about the court matter.
“I will never leave my land at the behest of people with sinister intentions. These people have no land; they are using fraudulent means to acquire land which belongs to the Ingonyama Trust.
“The land was previously leased to a white farmer; we do not know how it landed in the hands of the current farmers. If they declare war against Inkosi Ngcobo, we will protect him,” Mathibeli promised.
A resident who asked not to be named, because of his relationship with Ngcobo, confirmed that some headmen were in competition with each other over land sales. “One pastor splashed out R150000 to buy a site for his church.”
The informant claimed that law enforcement officials were also involved in illegal land sales.
Regarding the Tea Estate court matter, spokesperson for the eThekwini Municipality Msawakhe Mayisela said: “We are dealing with the matter in court. We will inform the media of the outcomes after court proceedings are finalised.”