Court rules for community on Mala Mala

2019-05-13 22:46

Management of South Africa’s biggest land claim – the R1.1 billion Mala Mala Nature Reserve – have been ordered by the Pretoria High Court to be transparent and release financial statements to beneficiaries.

The Nwandlamharhi Communal Property Association (CPA) has been accused by a section of the 960 beneficiary families of mismanagement, a lack of transparency and withholding dividends that are due to them.

Eight beneficiaries took the squabble to court to ask it to order Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to conduct a forensic investigation into the CPA’s former treasurer Derick Mthabine and his alleged associates.

Other demands included that:

  • The CPA should be placed under administration of the department of rural development and land reform’s director-general (Rendani Sadiki is acting in the position);
  • The director-general complete the verification of all claimants and distribute financial statements to the beneficiaries;
  • The director-general conduct an investigation regarding the dispute between the beneficiaries and CPA executive members;
  • The director-general help the CPA to hold an annual general meeting and elect new executive members; and
  • The Gilfillan Du Plessis law firm furnish records of the CPA’s monies held in the trust account.

The beneficiaries who went to court, led by Zamani Mathebula, have been alleging that the CPA was so hell-bent on excluding them that Mathebula had been twice assaulted when he tried to get into meetings that dealt with CPA matters.

Mala Mala is an exclusive and luxurious reserve situated in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. The reserves generate about R8.4 million a year in rental income for the CPA and about R2 million in the form of a tourism levy.

Judge Nomsa Khumalo dismissed the beneficiaries’ application to place the CPA under the administration of the department of rural development and land reform, but found in favour of the beneficiaries on a number of other issues.

Khumalo ordered the CPA to submit all documents in its possession, including financial records, to the director-general and the beneficiaries within 30 days after the issuing of the court order.

Khumalo also ordered the director-general to release results of the verification process of the beneficiaries within 30 days, and soon thereafter prepare for the annual general meeting and election of new CPA executive members.

“The decision to institute a forensic investigation into the affairs of the CPA is deferred to the elective annual general meeting, which is to be held in terms of the constitution within 60 days of the order of the court with the assistance of the director-general,” Khumalo said.

The court also ruled that the director-general should conduct an investigation regarding the dispute between the beneficiaries and CPA’s executive members.

“[The] sixth respondent [Gilfillan Du Plessis] is hereby ordered to furnish records of the CPA’s monies that were held in their trust account to the director-general within 30 days from the order of the court,” the judge said.

Reacting to the judgment, Mathebula said: “Justice is served now. We are going to know what the claimants’ monies were used for. Things are now going to be done properly.”

Mthabine said that the CPA was concerned by the relief granted to Mathebula and other applicants.

“We are of the opinion that the honourable judge correctly found that the application to place the CPA under administration of the director-general be dismissed. We are, however, concerned about the other relief that was granted,” Mthabine said.

“The CPA intends to approach the Land Claims Court for appropriate relief to declare on the ongoing disputes between the respective communities as to who is entitled to be verified as beneficiaries. At the time of the negotiations, government insisted that the claimants of the Mala Mala land allow a group named the Mavhuraka community to also become members of the Nwandlamharhi CPA. The Mavhuraka community never had a claim in respect of the Mala Mala land,” he added.

Mthabine said that the CPA had already furnished the director-general with all required documents in their possession, including financial records.

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December 8 2019