Battle over land ‘sold twice’

Published Jul 8, 2024


Durban — The eThekwini Municipality and a Hammarsdale businessman are in a legal wrangle over a piece of tribal land which has apparently been sold to both parties.

Businessman Jabulani Maphumulo has accused the municipality of forging a traditional council document by the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB).

He has alleged that the City’s action has hindered his prospects of expanding his businesses, which he said would have created job opportunities for at least 100 people from Hammarsdale and surrounding areas.

However, Maphumulo was interdicted last month by the Durban High Court which found in favour of the municipality, preventing any construction from taking place on the property.

On June 20, Maphumulo filed an urgent application for leave to appeal the interdict. His lawyer, who asked not to be named, said he was waiting for a court date for the hearing.

When approached for comment, eThekwini spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said: “Since you have indicated that Mr Maphumulo is preparing to file an appeal, the municipality will not comment on questions related to a matter that is subject to court processes.”

ITB spokesperson Simpiwe Mxakaza said the entity “reserves its comment on this matter”.

In the application papers, Maphumulo alleged that Durban High Court Acting Judge Nomfundo Sipunzi had erred in granting an interdict against him.

“The court erred and misdirected itself in finding that there was no evidence that the consent was forged,” read Maphumulo’s application.

Maphumulo was backed by the Embo/Langa Traditional Council and its acting inkosi, Duke Mkhize, who is currently the custodian of the land in question and denied the authenticity of the consent document.

Maphumulo said he acquired the land in 2020 after paying a R10 000 “khonza fee”, which is paid to local traditional leaders in rural KwaZulu-Natal to acquire a right to occupy traditional land.

The property is near the Hammarsdale Junction Mall, which was built on traditional land that the municipality had allegedly bought from the ITB.

Maphumulo said he was to be the first black local businessman to own a chain of businesses in the area, which also has a petrol station and a Build It hardware store.

“I approached the induna, and the traditional council of my home village, where I was born and bred, with a business proposal to start a car wash, trailer hiring, a butchery and a decent shisanyama business,” he said.

Durban businessman Jabulani Maphumulo holding documents which his lawyers have prepared to fight eThekwini Municipality over Ingonyama land. Picture: Zama Ngcoya

Maphumulo, who owns Msizi Security and Mxhakaza General Trading and Projects, also intended to build a wedding venue on the land.

The municipality, in court papers, said it had planned to build a Sizakala Centre, a business hive and fire station in the area, which included the disputed land. Maphumulo said the municipality only claimed ownership of the land when he had brought in heavy-duty machines to begin earthworks and construction.

According to information contained in Judge Sipunzi’s judgment, the municipality finalised the purchase of the land on June 30, 2021, after an official from the ITB had satisfied himself that the municipality had obtained consent from the traditional council under the now late inkosi Thamsanqa Mkhize, who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court papers read: “It was on that basis that on 12 May 2021, he (the ITB) completed and signed the ‘Consent From The Landowner/Person In Control Of The Land, On Which The Activity Is To Be Undertaken’ form.

“On 30 June 2021, a purchase and sale agreement of the property was concluded between the ITB and the municipality.”

Judge Sipunzi rejected testimony of traditional secretary Fikile Sibiya, who said she knew nothing about the consent document which was purported to have been issued by the traditional council and carried her signature and council stamp.

Sibiya was among witnesses who testified that the document was forged.

The judgment read: “Ms Sibiya’s hesitance in acknowledging her signature can only be described as an act of blatant dishonesty. Though she distanced herself from it, she could not give a plausible explanation how her signature appears in the applicant’s documents.”

Maphumulo said his appeal against the interdict was on the basis that the sale agreement papers, which were typed, were forged as the traditional council did not have a computer to produce the document.

The municipality apparently told the court that the traditional council had given it consent to duplicate the original handwritten consent form with a typed one.

The court found that it was highly improbable that the municipality had acquired the disputed piece of land without having followed the due processes, including obtaining the consent of the relevant council and facilitation with the ITB.

Sunday Tribune