Former minister of state security Bongani Bongo released on R10k bail for R124m land fraud

The latest arrests of officials involved in corruption include Bongani Bongo, former state security minister and ally of deputy president David Mabuza. While head of legal services in a Mpumalanga metro, Bongo was allegedly involved in land deals which he organised with the help of several officials. Bongo’s arrest is politically significant as Mabuza was the premier of Mpumalanga when the alleged corruption took place. Though Mabuza has since distanced himself from Bongo’s arrest, the writing is clearly on the wall for politicians who freely looted during Jacob Zuma’s tenure. – Bernice Maune. 

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has brought charges of fraud and corruption against former minister of state security Bongani Bongo, his brother Sipho Joel Bongo and eight other people. The 10 have already appeared in court, with the Bongo brothers receiving bail for R10 000.

The NPA has identified the accused as Robert Burwise, Patrick Donald Chirwa, Harrington Sizwakhendaba Dhlamini, Blessing Mduduzi Singwane, David Boy Dube, Sipho Joel Bongo, Vusi Willem Magagula, Bongani Louis Henry Sibiya, Elmon Lawrence Mdaka and Sibongile Mercy Mdaka.

A statement released by the NPA says the charges are in connection with the R37.5m sale and purchase of a farm in Naauwpoort, Emalahleni, by the Mpumalanga department of human settlements, ostensibly on behalf of eMalahleni Municipality.

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As head of legal services at Msukaligwa Municipality, Bongo had knowledge and oversaw the legality of land deals. It was in his capacity that he allegedly exploited the purchase of land by the government. Bongo and the ten are said to have hatched a scheme to buy land at a low price, misconstruing the real amounts to the state and pocketing the rest of the money through a trust account set up by an attorney.

According to Sipho Ngwema, spokesperson for the NPA, one of the cases involve the owner of a farm Petrus Johannes van Tonder who was paid R15m. Bongo and his co-accused then created documents showing the sale of the farm for R37,5m. The money was paid to Singwane Attorneys, in their capacity as conveyancer appointed by the department.

Van Tonder then paid R1.5m commission to Pam Golding for facilitating the transaction. Singwane Attorneys paid R22,5m to Little River Trading, without the approval of the government. The NPA has also detailed another fraudulent land sale which saw the accused take home millions. In addition, they also received lavish cars as part of the kickbacks for the deal they facilitated.

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“In another transaction, Bongiveli entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Fremax Farms for a portion of the Rietspruit farm valued at R1,6m.

“Little River paid R1,5m as a deposit for the farm and Bongiveli had to deliver a guarantee issued by a bank or financial institution for payment of the balance of the purchase price before 31 May 2011. In turn some of the accused, as members of Pfuka Afrika CC, received commission of R4,5m.

“In March 2011 the (Department of Housing) DoHS, Msukaligwa Municipality and Bongiveli entered into a sale and purchase agreement for Rietspruit Farm. When the said sale and purchase agreement was signed, Bongiveli was not the owner of the farm and there was no departmental approval to purchase the farm. The Msukaligwa Local Municipality valuation of the portion of the Rietspruit farm was valued at R1,6m.

“In March 2011, the DoHS paid over R52m to Singwane. Subsequently, the law firm furnished Freemax with a guarantee of R15,6m. The property was then transferred to Bongiveli from Msukaligwa Municipality, and the company became the owner of the farm. The farm was sold back to DoHS for R32m,” said Ngwema.

Bongo will again appear in court on March 2021.

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