‘Limpopo drags feet on corrupt R116m land deal’ – Treasury report

Five years after the Limpopo cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs (CoGHSTA) paid a private company R108-million more for a piece of land at greater Tubatse municipality, little or no action has been taken against the culprits, shows a National Treasury report.

According to an investigative report commissioned by the National Treasury, it is unable to report whether anyone has been held accountable, or even arrested, in relation to an elaborate scheme that resulted in the department spending a whopping R116-million on a portion of land valued at R8-million.

The National Treasury told Sunday World this week that it had opened a criminal case in 2018, but could not share further details.

In 2017, it commissioned Bowmans Gilfillan Inc to assist the special audit services in the office of the accountant-general with an investigation after allegations of procurement irregularities were reported in the media involving the buying of the Mooifontein property.

CoGHSTA had bought the Mooifontein farm in Tubatse through the Housing Development Agency (HDA), for human settlements purposes, at inflated prices.

The beneficiaries allegedly included senior ANC politicians and government officials in Limpopo.

The Bowmans report confirmed that the HDA had purchased extensions 54, 58, 71 and 72 of portion 10 of the Farm Mooifontein 313KT at Tubatse township extension from Blue Horizon Investments.

“The purchase price was R116 500 000 [excluding value-added tax] and was paid to the seller’s attorneys on 23 October 2015. During the 2015/2016 CoGHSTA audit by the Auditor General South Africa (AG), the auditors identified information giving rise to a suspicion that CoGHSTA overpaid for the Mooifontein property.
“The AG engaged an independent valuer to value the Mooifontein Property and determined that the independent valuer valued the property at R8 140 000, resulting in a difference of R108 360 000 when compared to what CoGHSTA paid for the Mooifontein Property,” reads the Bowmans report.

Bowmans found that a lot of money was exchanged through a lot of hands. Three companies were asked to value the property in question, and Bowmans found that they all overstated the price in order to assist the ballooned purchase.

One of the valuers told Bowmans investigators that her company was never even contracted to do any valuation work, stating she was surprised that her signature was in one of the papers.

“The seller engaged an intermediary, Kgosi Maepa (The former ANC regional chairperson of Tshwane), to negotiate the sale of the Mooifontein Property on its behalf. Maepa was introduced to the seller by Jotham Maphundi, an individual who has a 22% shareholding in Cranbrook, the 90% shareholder of the company that sold the Mooifontein Property to the Tubatse Municipality.

“Maepa received 5% of the purchase price for his involvement in the transaction and Maphundi received 22% of the profits, which equated to approximately R14 000 000. The seller likened Maepa’s role to that of an estate agent, which contradicts another statement that the HDA advertised a RFQ for private land owners to sell land available for human settlements.

“It appears Maepa may have contravened the Estate Agency Affairs Act 112 of 1976 (the EAA), if he indeed received commission payment without having been issued with the requisite fidelity fund certificate,” reads the report.

Bowmans recommended that National Treasury engage the South African Revenue Services to determine if there was no tax avoidance.

“It is permissible in certain limited circumstances for government departments to procure goods or services without undertaking a competitive bidding process, such as an unsolicited bidding process.

“In this instance, the view of the HDA and CoGHSTA is that a feasibility study had been conducted in accordance with the strategic plans and needs of the Tubatse Municipality in order to identify the Mooifontein Property and thus it was not necessary and not possible to conduct a competitive bidding process,” the report states.
Bowmans further investigated claims of corruption in the buying of the land.

“Peter Clifford Du Plessis, the Managing Director of the seller, alleged that there had been two instances where individuals attempted to extort him for a payment relating to the sale of the Mooifontein Property.

“One of the individuals was Shoken Mohlake. Mohlake was previously engaged by Cranbrook as a social facilitator, and the other individual was an official within national human settlements, who demanded a payment of R20 000 000 and threatened Du Plessis personally.

“Du Plessis declined to provide further information on the subject, other than to say that he did not pay either of the individuals and that the threats of extortion stopped after he reported the matter,” reads the report.

CoGHSTA failed to respond to questions sent during the week.

 Maepa  confirmed playing a role in the dodgy deal but said he acted as a “transactional advisor”.

“That report failed because I was never an estate agent and I never claimed to be one. This was proven in a tribunal where I was called to explain my role.

“The role that I played, and I successfully proved in the tribunal, was that of a transactional advisor. I was paid for that role and there is nowhere it says I’m an estate agent.

“Those people sold their land directly to the government and now they are fighting among each other. I never even determined the price, I just sat in negotiations in an advisory role and got paid what was due to me,” said Maepa.

Maphundi and Mohlake could not be reached for comment.

Fetakgomo Tubatse Mayor Eddie Maila told Sunday World that their hands remained clean as they were never involved in any of the transactions investigated.

“We simply received a donation of land aimed for human settlements. We never took part in any of the transactions that took place,” said Maila.
The National Treasury told the newspaper that a criminal case had since been opened, but could not share any progress made since 2018.

“A criminal case was opened and the report was shared with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority for further criminal investigations.

“It’s our understanding as the National Treasury that the criminal investigations are still ongoing,” said the National Treasury.

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