Landowners of Magoebaskloof now have to decide whether they want to proceed with their plans to apply for a mandamus against Mashile Mokono.
With only weeks to go before the now-relaxed 2008 deadline for the settlement of all land restitution claims in SA, the entire restitution process seems to have ground to a halt in Limpopo. Limpopo farmers no longer trust provincial land claims commissioner Mashile Mokono, who is currently standing trial on charges of fraud and perjury.
Last month TAU SA North president Dries Joubert expressed concerns that Mokono’s trial is delaying the restitution process in the province. Farmers and organised agriculture have long complained that Mokono fails to attend restitution forum meetings to discuss and resolve the challenges restitution poses. Last year Mokono explained his refusal to attend, saying, “I don’t find these meetings very useful as farmers’ unions only use them to complain.”
Farmers and claimants had to approach his office directly for answers about their claims or transactions. Now farmers say this route has also turned into a dead end. Mokono is not available. Not in his office, not on his cellphone and not via e-mail. Officials in his office also seem unable to help.
Gert Raal of Agri Limpopo in Polokwane says he’s been trying for three weeks to get the commission to present him with offers for a farm that was valued for restitution last year. “have called, left messages, sent faxes and e-mails. have been to the commission’s office several times over the last couple of weeks,” he says. Every time he gets the same reply. Only the commissioner can deal with his queries, and he is unavailable. In other parts of the province farmers are experiencing similar frustrations. The law firm dealing with the mandamus application on behalf of the 72 willing sellers of Magoebaskloof, says the application is drawn up and ready to be submitted to the High Court. Despite meetings between willing sellers and the commission on 18 December and 11 January, there’s been no progress in processing the offers the commission made in January last year. “We’re awaiting instructions to proceed with the application from the willing sellers,” an attorney at the law firm Joubert & May told Farmer’s Weekly.
The same firm has just won another case against Mokono in the Land Claims Court. owned by a Shangaan-Tsonga clan in the province was claimed by a Sotho-speaking clan. While there’s been no progress in processing this claim, Mokono obtained an interdict against the planned construction of a hotel on the land under claim. Along with a cost order, judge Antonie Geldenhuys overturned the interdict and instructed the commissioner to focus on the job at hand and process the claim. While this case is of no major concern to farmers, Agri Limpopo president Theo de Jager expressed his frustration at the millions of rand wasted in court cases the commission keeps losing – mostly with cost orders – while restitution is getting nowhere. Farmers are also concerned about money that seemingly disappeared that was supposed to be held in trust by transfer attorneys appointed by Mokono.
Transfer attorneys are allowed to retain a percentage of the total selling price of land in an interest-bearing trust account until the new owners and the commission have inspected the farm and signed off approval that everything is intact, as per the sales agreement. The transfer attorney should then pay the money to the seller within five working days, but in one case, Mokono took 23 days to notify his attorney of his approval and to date the money hasn’t been transferred. It’s now four months since he signed off on land sold as part of the Mashishimane claim, and farmers still haven’t been paid the retention fees.
One farmer asked the state-appointed attorneys for bank statements reflecting the interest his money earned in their trust account, as he needed to declare it in his annual tax assessment. The statements indicate his money has been withdrawn from the account. To date he has had no answer as to where it went. While it’s customary that the seller of a property appoints the transfer attorney, Mokono insists on appointing his own attorneys for restitution transactions. Since December Farmer’s Weekly has tried to discuss these and other matters with Mokono, but failed to get hold of him. – Jasper Raats Contact TAU SA on (012) 804 8031. Contact Agri Limpopo on (015) 297 7349. |fw