Our Burning Planet

‘LAND SCAM’ OP-ED

Mabuza breaks his silence — and reveals the weakness of his defence

Mabuza breaks his silence — and reveals the weakness of his defence
Illustrative image. Photos: Deputy President David Mabuza at the ANC’s national executive committee meeting in Cape Town, 23 March 2018. Photo by Leila Dougan / Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash

Despite his reputation as a politician who presided over several Mpumalanga government departments wracked by vulgar corruption, Deputy President ‘DD’ Mabuza hardly ever responds to announcements about fresh probes into his misdeeds. So the press release his office issued on Wednesday in response to a criminal complaint laid against him is remarkable – both for breaking the silence and for illustrating the weakness of his defence.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) laid a complaint on Monday with the Investigating Directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) against Mabuza and 14 other suspects, requesting that they be charged with contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act for allegedly “maintaining interest or control of criminal enterprises”. 

Having never met or communicated with anyone from Outa, I do not know why they laid the complaint amid great turmoil in the ANC and before a determination from a court considering this matter. But as the author of the book Predator Politics: Mabuza, Fred Daniel and the Great Land Scam, I can attest to the veracity of the evidence the organisation laid out in their affidavit to the NPA.

Outa provided documentary and oral evidence of corrupt activities dating back to 2002, collated by conservationist Fred Daniel and presented to the Pretoria High Court in his ongoing damages action against several Mpumalanga government agencies, entities and officials. 

The case stems from the harassment Daniel and his family suffered after his private nature reserve in Mpumalanga was earmarked by Mabuza for redistribution to fake land claimants that he had organised and amassed at the gates. When the crowd threatened to petrol-bomb the property, Mabuza gathered them round and addressed them. He promised them Daniel’s land and told them to disperse.

Daniel’s lawyer, and the experts he hired, easily established that there were no genuine claims on the land from black people dispossessed during apartheid. They also uncovered a conspiracy to fraudulently inflate the prices of land bought by the Land Claims Commission in Mpumalanga for redistribution to poor black farmers. Soon after Mabuza was appointed MEC for agriculture and land affairs in 2008, he was elected chairman of the Greater Badplaas Land Claims Committee. 

Ostensibly a lobby group for people seeking resolution of their land claims — in an area where all legitimate claims had been settled — its members terrorised Daniel, restituted black farmers who resisted them, and Badplaas police officers. Many more corrupt schemes are detailed in my book and Kevin Bloom’s remarkable reportage on these pages.

In response to the Outa charges, Mabuza’s spokesperson, Matshepo Seedat, said in a press release: “The Office of the Deputy President asserts that this complaint is a regurgitation of old allegations of Mr Fred Daniel, which have been and continue to be litigated in other courts, including the High Court.” 

The allegations may indeed be old, but this does not mean that they cannot today be brought before a high court or given to the NPA for investigation. The Arms Deal predates Mabuza’s corrupt schemes in Mpumalanga, yet the NPA has not lost its appetite to prosecute former president Jacob Zuma and the judiciary is keen to hear the matter. 

The recent discovery that six police dockets opened after charges were laid against Mabuza were emptied of their contents goes some way towards explaining why it took Daniel 12 years to reach the high court. 

Seedat then ventures into the realm of fiction: “Every application that Mr Daniel has filed against the Deputy President has been rejected with punitive costs. The judicial system has found him to be a dishonest litigant who takes advantage of the system.” 

Had Mabuza won punitive costs several times against Daniel (which he didn’t), surely he could reference at least one of the courts which made these findings, rather than a non-existent “judicial system”? More than a decade ago, former finance minister Trevor Manuel won punitive damages against a vexatious litigant who falsely accused him of Arms Deal corruption, and I remember to this day the name of the judge who ruled in his favour, and in which court she sat.

Read in Daily Maverick: “‘Land scam kingpin’ – Deputy President David Mabuza named as top suspect in organised crime complaint

Mabuza is “not even a respondent in his personal capacity” in Daniel’s civil claim, Seedat complained. “Records of the civil case are available for anyone to see how Mr Daniel has been exposed for who he is. The Deputy President is utterly disappointed that an organisation of the stature of Outa would take the extraordinary step of associating with those whom the courts have pronounced to be abusing the legal system, including those who are eager to discredit the Deputy President in order to further their own nefarious goals.”


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This is quite a remarkable assertion to put up in defence of Mabuza. A judge has patiently listened to months of evidence from Daniel’s witnesses without declaring the matter an abuse of the legal system.  

The evidence heard so far paints a picture of a man who dedicated his life to preserving nature for all of humanity, who was forced to leave his land after a vicious campaign of harassment, who spent tens of millions of rands in his quest for justice. Experts testified at the hearings that the corruption Daniel is ventilating cost the fiscus R35-billion. Easy to say “nefarious goals” in a press release, but it seems impossible to stipulate just one of them.

Seedat says that “on countless occasions, including before Parliament”, Mabuza maintained that if “anyone had any evidence of wrongdoing on his part, they should bring the case to the attention of the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The Deputy President stands by this statement.” This is exactly what Outa has done, yet Seedat questions “the true motives of the complaint” without sharing any information that could direct citizens to it.

In the absence of evidence from Mabuza that points to any nefarious motives, I stand by the contents of my book published in 2020, which Outa has so kindly pointed out to its admirers and critics. It is still in print and my publisher assures me there will be copies available in all good bookshops. My only motive was to document the horrors inflicted on whistleblowers in South Africa. DM/OBP

Gallery
Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cedric Parker says:

    I hope that tax payers are not covering Mabuza’s legal costs

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Do they really want the masses to appear at their doorsteps with guillotines in tow?

  • Sue Grant-Marshall says:

    Clearly and succinctly put Rehana Rossouw – as indeed is your book ‘ Predator Politics’. I urge everyone to get a copy of it. What DD Mabuza has done in preventing Fred Daniel create a world heritage site is downright criminal. Not to mention fraud, harassment and assassination attempts.
    DD for president ?!!!!

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    Yet another sleazy bunch of corrupt politicians and their sidekicks bullying an innocent individual. If the findings are
    proven to be true then let justice prevail. Good luck Fred.

  • andrew farrer says:

    Can they not charge the anc for the same?

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The correct thing to do is to lay charges against a person who is accused of criminal conduct even if there is evidence of police and NPA inaction. There will be indeed questions whether these are not Ramaphosa factional supporters trying to support him but that is not important just like Arthur Fraser doing the right thing and laying charges. We are not going to ask the intentions of those who laid charges as some do when charges are laid against Cyril. If there is a case to answer DD Mabuza must answer as Cyril should do. The only thing that we would hope is that they are not baseless.

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