Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti reportedly supported an ANC member to take possession of a R97- million farm in Limpopo.
Eight months after the alleged meeting between the minister and the member, Bekendvlei Farm was bought for R97-million and handed over to Errol Velile Present, who had been a strong ally and worker at the Luthuli House for over 10 years, and his partner, businessman Moses Boshomane, to manage.
Though the minister has denied all wrongdoing in the matter, a report from the Sundaytimes newspaper has it that he helped in obtaining the massive land which neither Present nor Boshomane had ancestral claims to.
This revelation came at the time the president, Jacob Zuma at his SONA event on Thursday, lightened the hearts of South Africans by making comments of a renewed commitment to land reform which would speed up the country’s radical economic transformation.
Following the hastiness in the agreement, the land purchase deal was signed by bypassing required procedures and a day after, Minister Nkwinti was the speaker at Present’s lavish wedding.
It’s still unknown what the massive land purchase is meant for as neither Present nor Boshomane had any experience in agriculture.
Minister Gugile Nkwinti admitted to having been accused of taking R2-million to ‘facilitate’ the deal which later left the buyers bankrupt as they were unable to pay 31 workers on the farm. No wages were paid for five months and the farm became run-down.
“About 3 000 cattle, worth almost R18-million, were sold off, machinery disappeared and crops died,” said the newspaper, adding that Nkwinti later evicted the men in March last year.
“The minister’s involvement was exposed in a forensic investigation by auditors Deloitte, with a draft report in May last year recommending that Nkwinti be charged with corruption, but the final report in November does not mention Nkwinti or recommend any action against him.
The department’s deputy director-general, Vusi Mahlangu, was fired over the matter and the department’s director-general was suspended.
President Jacob Zuma emphasised the need for land reform, with only 8 million hectares of arable land (10% of the total) transferred to black people.
Commending this move, the Rural Development and Land Reform minister Gugile Nkwinti said Zuma’s renewed focus which was a direct translation of ANC policy as spelled out in the party’s January 8 statement, was ‘excellent’.
The minister acknowledged that the urgent issues around land and economic transformation may have been put on the backburner at the start of democracy in 1994.
Now, more than 22 years down the line, “the urgency of the land question has increased in tempo, which makes sense,” Nkwinti said as he warned that if the country did not speed up land transformation and reconciliation, South Africa will be put at risk.