The voice of agriculture . Die stem van landbou . Izwe lezokulima

Massive land reform scam uncovered: report

Business Tech 24 January 2019

A report by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) recommends that 42 people – including government officials – be prosecuted for fraud and corruption linked to land reform programmes.

The report was handed over to President Ramaphosa in March 2018 but was only recently uncovered by Business Day after it submitted a Promotion to Access to Information Application (PAIA).

As part of the report, the SIU probed 148 land reform projects between 2011 and 2017, finding that a ‘complete lack of controls’ led to fraudulent activities on an enormous scale.

In one such project, grants were made available to beneficiaries to cover the costs of the acquisition of agricultural land.

These beneficiaries were then expected to stay and work on the farms they were given as a way of paying back some of the money they had received.

However, the SIU found that in many of these cases thousands of alleged beneficiaries were not even aware of the project and had never been to their farms.

Others had never lived or worked on a farm and did not qualify for grants.

While the report led to more than 24 farms valued at more than R382 million being forfeited to the state, most of those implicated by the report have not faced prosecution, with a National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson telling BusinessDay that investigations were still ongoing.

These land reform failures are likely to come under the spotlight as government prepares to introduce land expropriation without compensation.

At its last sitting in 2018, the National Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce a constitutional amendment to allow for and expropriation without and report back to the House by 31 March 2019.

While even the ANC has conceded that this deadline is ambitious if the bill is not completed, the party still wants a progress report from the Ad Hoc Committee.