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PARLY’S RAILWAY LAND PROBE ACADEMIC

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MBABANE – Time will tell if it is worth it. The parliament probe into the purchase of land by Eswatini Railways where the public enterprise is now building its headquarters could prove to be both academic and a waste of public funds.


A select committee has been elected to investigate the fragrant flouting of procurement procedures at Eswatini Railways in relation to, inter alia: the buying of land in Ezulwini for the construction of the parastatal’s headquarters and the procurement of eight cars.
While the investigation is pending, Minister of Public Works and Transport Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe has been directed to halt any transfers or processes relating to the ownership of the land.


However, investigations conducted by the Times SUNDAY show that this directive has been overtaken by events.
This is because the land in question is already registered in the name of Eswatini Railways, having been transferred two years ago.
According to the deed of transfer, which this publication has seen, the land was transferred on March 14, 2018 from Muzi Nicholas Dlamini in his capacity as Director of Kwasa Kusile (PTY) Ltd.



PORTION


The property is portion 10 (a portion of portion 1) of Farm No. 850 in the Hhohho District.
Kwasa Kusile (PTY) LTD is owned by Futhi Johannes Dlamini, who is a medical practitioner by profession and his brother Muzi, who is a businessman. During the sale of the property, Kwasa Kusile was represented by Muzi.


An expert on land transfers said in as far as this land is concerned, the horse has already bolted and it is almost impossible to reverse the transfer of the property.


“The only thing that parliament can do is to ask for a reversal if they think there was any wrongdoing but even then, only the court can order the reversal. You cannot just reverse by merely pointing but the courts only can order this. Once you transfer a property, it becomes final.”


The expert warned that such a reversal could also prove costly because the seller would have to be compensated. “The seller might claim that he has been delayed as the property could have been sold to other buyers but now it is being brought back to him,” added the expert.


The minister of Public Works and Transport also stated that the land was long transferred to the ownership of Eswatini Railways.
“I believe the movers of the motion were given wrong information. We will wait for the select committee’s questions on the matter and we will inform them of what we will be able to do and what is beyond our control,” Ndwandwe said. 


Thabiso Masina, the Registrar of Deeds, said their role in this matter would be to only confirm the name to whom the land is registered and nothing else.
“As the Deeds Registrar’s Office, we don’t interfere in parliament work; maybe the AG can assist you with the legal implications of this,” Masina said.

SOLD


The land, which initially belonged to Mantenga Trust after it was sold to the latter by government in 1956, was sold to Eswatini Railways on January 16, 2018 for E11.25 million.
It is understood that the public enterprise secured a loan from Nedbank to purchase the piece of land, which measures 1.0064 hectares.
Before buying this piece of land, Eswatini Railways is said to have had the option of purchasing another piece of land, which belonged to the late businessman Victor Mfana Gamedze.

 


This is the same land that was eventually bought by the Members of Parliament and Designated Office Bearers Pension Fund, known by the acronym MOPADO.
The land was sold to MOPADO by Gamedze’s wife, Lungile Hotencia Gamedze, for E12 million.
The land, which measures 1.3480 hectares, is situated near Corner Plaza and Cash Build Hardware on the stretch where Lungile’s father, the late Prince Makhungu, has a homestead.


The princess sold the property to MOPADO on August 23, 2018 and she did this in her capacity as trustee of Madlenya Trust.
Sources said Eswatini Railways ended up not purchasing this land because Gamedze, who was alive at the time, wanted to avoid political interference that had crept into the sale.


Before purchasing the land that is now subject of the parliament probe, Eswatini Railway is said to have engaged, in November 2017, Ngwenya Wanfor and Associates to conduct an evaluation on the property and the value of the land was placed at E12.5 million.


“Eswatini Railways negotiated the price until the figure of E11.25 million was agreed with the seller,” an impeccable source told this publication.
It has been ascertained from other sources that one of the main concerns regarding the land sale, hence the probe, are allegations that the price was inflated.
“We wonder what the probe team will say when it is brought to their attention that in fact the land was bought at a lesser amount compared to its true value,” said one source.


The land is situated next to where the Eswatini Communications Commission has also acquired property on which to build its own head offices.It is also close to the new multi-million hospital that is being built by Swazi Med.
On March 10, 2019, this newspaper published an article in which the private sector expressed grave concern at the rapid growth of public companies that are building their own offices.


Their strong argument was that the hasty construction of office parks by the public companies was driving private investors out of business.

ALLOWED
They pointed to the fact that the more the public companies were allowed to construct their own offices, the more they vacated the already existing offices owned by private investors. They observed that office parks owned by the private sector were increasingly being left vacant.


Business Eswatini President Andrew le Roux was quoted saying ‘this is a very unhealthy business environment and something has to be done to stop this’.
Le Roux highlighted that it was wrong for the public companies to compete with private investors in the property (office parks) sector because they were driving them (private investors) out of business.


“These companies are subsidised by the taxes paid by the private sector and they then use the same money to compete with the same private sector.
“That is totally unfair and not ideal for the country’s economic development,” he said.


Other public companies that have built their own offices include Swaziland Finance Corporation (FINCORP), Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF), Eswatini Water Services Corporation (ESWSC), Eswatini Post and Telecommunications Corporation (EPTC), EswatiniBank, and the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC).

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