The raging war for land has taken on a different dimension with a taking-no-prisoners stance by targets who came forward to blow the whistle on a reported scam seen to be aimed at using innocent Polokwane residents as pawns.
During the investigation into the matter brought to Polokwane Observer’s attention last week, it was discovered that whereas individuals were willing to give perceived corruption a blow by exposing the alleged operation, others would have rather opted to cash in on “a big story” by intending to channel it to a mainstream newspaper.
According to sources those behind the scheme are allegedly in a way draining government coffers of taxpayers’ money seemingly set aside for redress to South Africans seeking monetary compensation instead of actual land.
The sources declined to be part of the purported scheme with its tentacles extended towards mostly elder residents of Westenburg and Seshego and are hell-bent about raising alarm about the situation.
In respective interviews they shared information on the alleged scam, saying the so-called kingpin was seen to be operating from Westenburg alongside his son-in-law from Pretoria. According to them he would approach pre-identified recruits with a proposal to complete a form with their bank account details in exchange for an amount of R10 000 to be paid into their accounts, while large sums in financial compensation for land in some or other way would get deposited into his bank account. The entire process would be finalised within three weeks, the one source said. It was learnt that the suspect would be boasting about 100 recruits in Seshego already having entered into the deal by December 2017.
To cash-strapped elders it was an irresistible offer, the one source said. “Around here he (the kingpin) is being worshipped for putting food on their tables. Because of hunger they do so (enter into the deal),” remarked the source as he emphasised that innocent people were being dragged into an expansive chain of corruption. He suspected scores of targets unknowingly being part of the operation.
For the protection of the sources further information obtained during the interviews is not being published.
It was established that the matter had already been escalated to the Hawks for investigation.
Avhashoni Magada, Communication Services Manager for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform in Limpopo said they were not aware of such a scam, but undertook to investigate and inform Polokwane Observer accordingly. He would also have alerted their security officers to contact the local Police, he said.
Breakdown of provincial figures
He provided a requested breakdown of land claims in the province, that pointed at 7 374 claims having been lodged in Limpopo before the 1998 cut-off date and newly lodged claims, submitted during the period reopening in July 2014 and running to July 2016, totalling
16 121. Of the claims lodged before the 1998 deadline, 5 290 were settled, 218 were phased claims that involved more than one land owner and 1 866 were outstanding. Eight of the outstanding ones were classified as unclear.
Most of the claims lodged prior to the 1998 cut-off emanated from Vhembe district making for 2 606 of the more than 7 000 claims, followed by 1 944 claims from the Sekhukhune district, 1 481 claims submitted in Capricorn district, Mopani district totalling 790 claims and 545 claims having been submitted in Waterberg district.
Financial compensation for grants in the Mopani district totalled R489 498 095,75, Capricorn district R98 645 141,99, Sekhukhune district R46 483 005,92, Vhembe district R506 462 665,55 and Waterberg district R84 993 943,21.
According to the figures, 162 792 hectares of land were restored in Mopani district, in Capricorn 92 738,14 hectares were restored, in Sekhukune district 56 228
hectares, in Vhembe district 194 683,7 hectares and Waterberg district 195 759,4 hectares were restored.
Magada said the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights was not only working hard to finalise all outstanding claims but was continuously convening proactive district-based engagement sessions aimed at updating claimants whose claims were still outstanding on the progress made so far. “The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights has acknowledged over the recent years in various forums that there is a dire need for the acceleration of settling land claims, hence the recent national dialogues on the settlement models for mining, forestry, conservation and environment, agricultural and urban (-related) land claims held to engage stakeholders on areas of improvement when it comes to the issues of land restitution, with the sole aim of accelerating settlement of outstanding claims.”
For the past five years, he said, the commission had annually been allocated a budget of about R3 billion, and each year it spent 100% of the allocated budget while meeting 100% of the set targets each year consecutively. “With these calculations, there is no doubt that the commission is doing its work, moving at a pace that is determined by the resources at the commission’ disposal.
“The Chief Land Claims Commissioner is continuously communicating with Treasury, asking for additional resources, not just financial but human resources as well so that the commission is able to do things quicker.”
Story: YOLANDE NEL