Fake chief arrested for illegal land sales

The elder brother of a Vryheid chief in northern KwaZulu-Natal has been arrested and charged for illegally “selling” plots on privately owned farmland.

Jabulani Mdlalose and his associate Mas’tandathi Mgqwaleni Buthe-lezi were arrested after a recent temporary high court order restraining Mdlalose from purporting to be chief of the Othaka Tribal Authority and allocating people land on private farms along the Vryheid-Babanango main road.

Affidavits before the Pietermaritzburg High Court claim that for the past three years Mdlalose has been advising farmers to vacate farms that he says were promised to his father, the late chief Dalwayini Mdlalose, by the former KwaZulu government.

Though Mdlalose also lodged a claim with the Land Claims Commission for 137 farms in the Vryheid district, the claim has not been validated.

The occupations began in April last year, when Mdlalose allegedly allocated people plots of land on farms in exchange for money.

Police and prosecuting authorities took no action, so farmers resorted to civil suits and obtained eviction orders against several illegal occupants. But delays allowed other squatters to move on to the land by the time the eviction orders were granted.

Acting on behalf of the farmers, Vryheid attorney Bertus van der Merwe then wrote to the director of public prosecutions advising him that “a very dangerous situation” was developing where properties were being invaded by “people who seem to get the impression that authorities will not step in to take the necessary steps to protect the rights of owners.

“We urge the Department of Justice and police to do the necessary to ensure the protection of bona fide landowners who are now confronted with unlawful actions that have the potential to create serious conflict, political unrest and instability in the area,” wrote Van der Merwe.

Seemingly emboldened by the absence of law enforcement, Mdlalose notified farmers and government departments that from April 1 the Othaka Tribal Authority intended taking possession of 18 of 200 farms that had been “given back to us by the former government in 1986-87”.

The farmers responded by applying to the Pietermaritzburg High Court for an order restraining Mdlalose from encouraging people to invade, trespass, graze livestock, plant crops or build homes on privately owned farms in the district.

The application was supported by Nkosi Bibi Mdlalose, chief of the Othaka Tribal Authority, who said he could no longer tolerate the unlawful actions of his elder brother, who was misrepresenting himself as the chief.

Bibi Mdlalose said he feared that Jabulani Mdlalose might “convince people that he has the authority to lead them to invade land unlawfully, which will not only expose them to criminal actions, but which will obviously have a devastating effect on the stability of our region and the relationship between landowners and my people”.

A temporary interdict was granted and the matter will be heard on June 20.

Police later arrested Jabulani Mdlalose and his “induna” Buthelezi, and charged them with three counts of fraud for allegedly selling plots on a privately owned farm. Both were granted bail in Gluckstad Circuit Court on Tuesday and the case was adjourned until June 24.

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