It cost R1 to buy the land for a R1bn stadium By Tshwarelo eseng Mogakane (African Eye News Service) and Eleanor Momberg 21 October 2007 Mpumalanga`s R1-billion 2010 World Cup stadium is being built on land that was illegally "bought" from a group of impoverished land claimants for R1. The Mbombela municipality this week formally declared the agreement signed between Differ Mogale, the council`s 2010 co-ordinator, and the Matsafeni Trust null and void. This was because Mogale apparently had no authority to conclude the deal. "According to council, no such contract exists. The sale is null and void. Mogale was not authorised in terms of the regulations, or by anyone who was, to buy or sell land," said Vusi Sibiya, a spokesperson for the Mbombela municipality. The former landowners, the Matsafeni farmworker community, announced this week that they had not approved the sale. Indications were they had bowed to political pressure to settle for the paltry amount of R1 in exchange for several inducements. Richard Spoor, the human rights lawyer representing 750 of the Matsafeni Trust`s 1 250 official beneficiaries, says the community never met at a general meeting to approve the deal through a 60 percent majority vote as required by law. "We are concerned at this and other apparent irregularities, including the fact that the trustees are failing to provide financial records or to account for their actions," said Spoor. "We do not want to jeopardise Mpumalanga`s 2010 plans but, if necessary, the 750 beneficiaries I represent will file legal papers to win back control of their ancestral land by dissolving the board of trustees and forcing them to step down." The government has already spent an estimated R250-million building the stadium. Jo Koster, a local Democratic Alliance councillor, said the cancellation of the sale meant the R1-billion stadium was being built on private property. "Do you understand the repercussions? Mpumalanga simply cannot afford these kinds of embarrassments. We all want our country to shine. We cannot let this stadium end up being a monument to failure," said Koster. Land-rights activists had also questioned why the government had bought prime development land from an impoverished community for just R1 when the land was conservatively valued at more than R60-million. Not only did the community not get paid for their land, but their only two schools will be bulldozed to make way for a stadium parking lot.
Community members are to be moved 25km away to make way for hotels, shops and housing estates. In return, according to the nullified land-sale agreement, they will be offered temporary jobs on the construction of the stadium. "No, no, no. This cannot happen in South Africa. It is totally wrong. The Matsafeni are beneficiaries, so they should either get the land or benefit directly - and being cheap, short-term labour is not a benefit," said Mangaliso Khubeka of the Landless People`s Movement. Khubeka said the World Cup should not be hosted at the expense of "poor, voiceless and defenceless" Africans. While Justice Nsibande, the Mbombela mayor, and other ANC councillors refused to comment, Sibiya confirmed that Mogale would be charged for contravening council regulations. But Mogale, who was not present at the council meeting where the deal was nullified, insists that the land sale was legal, and that the property has already been transferred into the council`s name. Mpumalanga`s government director for the World Cup, Desmond Golding, was outraged when he was informed of the council resolution, saying Mogale had consulted the 2010 political committee, the mayor and the municipal manager, who had all approved the sale of the land. "Who else did Mogale need to consult?" Golding asked. "Let me put it on record that this province will not be held to ransom by internal [political] bickering. As far as I`m concerned, there is nothing illegal in the land deal. "We cannot allow any distractions at this stage, because we need to do our continent proud." Golding and Tom Mdluli, the secretary of the Matsafeni board of trustees, declined to be drawn on the pending legal action by the 750 Matsafeni families Mdluli also refused to comment on the nullification of the land deal, explain how the land sale value of R1 was arrived at, or say how the community have benefited thus far. Tumi Makgabo, Mpumalanga`s political project leader and 2010 World Cup local organising committee spokesperson, said that, while the committee did monitor progress around developments for the World Cup, agreements were not entered into by the committee. It was, therefore, not their place to comment on the matter until they had been briefed by the municipality. Jabu Mahlangu, the Mpumalanga culture, sport and recreation MEC, and Makgabo said yesterday they were confident that South Africa would be ready for 2010, adding: "The current disputes are just minor internal squabbles of a technical nature."
While world governing body Fifa this week declared they were satisfied with progress made in building and upgrading stadiums for the event, Makgabo pointed out that in real terms it remained difficult to say that everything would be well when there was more than two-and-a-half years to go before kick-off. Article found at: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=13&set_id=1&art_id=vn2007102108542769 4C498420 ----------------Nelpruit Mayor to be charged?" 21/01/2008 Justin Arenstein and Tshwarelo eseng Mogakane Nelspruit - An independent commission of inquiry has recommended that criminal charges be laid against the mayor of Mpumalanga`s capital city, Justice Nsibande, and the city`s 2010 manager, Differ Mogale. The two men are accused of failing to declare their conflicts of interest in deals related to the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium outside Nelspruit. Nsibande and Mogale are members of a tourism company, Blue Nightingale, which includes Terry Mdluli as a board director. Mdluli is chairperson of the Matsafeni Trust, which represents a community of farmworkers who sold their ancestral land, worth R60m, to the Mbombela local municipality for just R1 so that the 2010 stadium could be built on it. The deal has sparked a heated legal challenge led by international human rights lawyer Richard Spoor on behalf of 750 of the Matsafeni Trust`s 1 250 members, who claim they were never consulted on the "absurd" sale and that Mdluli was acting fraudulently and for personal gain. Nsibande insisted that the commission`s report was a political smear campaign, but conceded he was business partners with Mogale, Mdluli, and other key political figures. Land sale `illegal` It was the Mbombela council that called for a commission of inquiry to be held. The inquiry was led by Ngobe Nkosi Attorneys. Nsibande insisted that he`d declared his interests, but refused to say whether his judgement and oversight duties had been impaired by his commercial relationships. The National Department of Land and South Africa`s chief Land Claims Commissioner, Tozi Gwanya, have meanwhile voiced support for Spoor`s legal challenge by warning that the land sale to the municipality was illegal.
"The law is very clear. This land was returned to the Matsafeni as part of a land claim. The law says that no community that receives such land can sell or otherwise alienate it for five years without a certificate from the minister saying government has no objections," explains Gwanya. "No such certificate was requested or issued, and with more than half of the beneficiaries now challenging the deal, there will be no certificate." That means that Mpumalanga is using R1bn in tax funds to build an international stadium on land it does not own. `Remedial action` Mpumalanga`s provincial director for the 2010 World Cup, Desmond Golding, conceded that government had not yet moved to verify the commission`s report and had failed to address the Matsafeni people`s grievances. "We have not yet acted because we were assured by the municipality that the situation was under control, but we view these new reports as very serious and will urgently convene the province`s 2010 political committee to decide on remedial action," he said. The committee, which consists of provincial cabinet ministers, will meet early this week. - African Eye>> Article found at: http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-71442_2255605,00.html