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Missing documents stall Mbombela deal

Nelspruit’s Mataffin community has accused its board of trustees of skulduggery after court documents went missing in its court battle over the land on which the Mbombela Stadium was built. As a result, the court has been unable to make a final ruling on transferring the title deeds to the Mbombela local municipality in return for an R8,7-million payment to the community.

The municipality originally made an illegal offer of R1 for the land, which had been returned to the community under a land claim.

“It is unfortunate that we will now not get the R8,7-million because some people decided to steal our court documents,” said Lusito Dlamini, the Mataffin task team spokesperson, this week.

He said the board was trying to sabotage the case to cover up mismanagement. “The board was appointed in 2008 and was supposed to serve for four months. Since then they have failed dismally to submit financial statements or hold annual general meetings,” Dlamini said.

He said that the task team had sent a letter demanding that trustee John Doidge provide an explanation.

“After that we learned that documents from our court file were missing. This makes us suspect foul play,” Dlamini said.

He said legal steps would be taken to force the board to submit financial reports. “We are also concerned that the forensic investigation that the high court instructed the trustees to carry out in 2008 has not happened,” he said.

Doidge could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but he left the number of a colleague who would comment on Thursday. The phone rang unanswered.

The 118-hectare area on which the R1,2-billion stadium was built was originally owned by the Matsafeni community of farmworkers, but was allegedly secretly and illegally sold to the Mbombela local municipality in 2007 for just R1.

The Mataffin task team appointed Richard Spoor, a human rights lawyer, to challenge the sale in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, arguing that the previous board of trustees had failed to consult the community.

Lulama Xingwana, the former land affairs minister, and the National Land Claims Commission warned at the time that the sale was illegal, because the land had been given to the Matsafeni Trust as part of a R62-million land reform project. Therefore, it could not be resold without the minister’s written permission.

Spoor said the sale violated the trust deed and took place without the necessary community approvals.

The applicants convinced the court to remove the trustees responsible for the sale and place the trust under administration, pending a forensic investigation.

The court also reversed the R1 deal and a temporary interdict was granted in May 2008 preventing the title deed from being transferred to the municipality. A new deal was reached between the municipality and the new trustees, stipulating that the council would pay R8,7-million for the land.

The interdict lapsed on October 18. When it was revealed that documents had gone missing from the court file, the matter was postponed indefinitely so that the file could be reconstructed.

Lassy Chiwayo, the Mbombela mayor, and Joseph Ngala, the municipal spokesperson, were not available for comment. — African Eye News Service

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