Fred Daniel talks about lost opportunities

Fred Daniel talks about lost opportunities
DISAPPOINTED: A nature conservationist at heart, Fred Daniel has detailed how his dream for a world class resort in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Mpumalanga was thwarted and ultimately destroyed by the greed of politicians. PICTURE BY 013NEWS/MLM

He said he had dreamt big about the area.

Nature reserve businessman Fred Daniel has left Badplaas, choosing to forget about an area he had become part of for more than 20 years and said that he had decided to move on with his life, seeing no usefulness in continuing to fight the unending battles of the area.

He leaves behind a rich legacy of someone who is a nature conservationist entrepreneur, and who tried to turn Badplaas into a tourist destination but failed when he collided with the core of political corruption.

Daniel said his only sin was to work directly with investigators, such as Paul O’Sullivan and lawyer Richard Spoor, to dig deep into the issues surrounding sale of farmland in the Mpumalanga province.

He was also a land buyer himself when he found that politicians were using government and the land claims process to enrich themselves.

Daniel said he started looking for land in 1992, traveling across the Southern African subcontinent when he was introduced to the Badplaas and Barberton areas in 1998.

From this period he said he began buying farms across the area with the intention of turning the uniquely bio-diverse area into a world class ecotourism destination.

He said he was driven by a vision “to heal the earth” when he began buying these farms, seeing the threats poised by mankind to nature, taking advantage of the collapse of the agricultural farming business in the area and armed with studies from government that the worn out land would now be best suitable for eco-tourism based game farming.

He said starting from 1998 to atleast 2004 he made various investigations about the farm-dwellers on the portions he was buying, and if there were ongoing land claims, and found none.

When he began fencing off the farms he was buying into one huge piece of land, Daniel was making himself unpopular with politicians, who had different interest from his and who wanted control of the same land to continue to use it by leasing it out to big corporates for farming.

Politicians were not going to do as he was, digging from his pocket to fulfill the dream… They were however going get government to buy the land from the Afrikaner farmers for them. 

How, you may wonder? 

They were going to compile a list of land claimants and register a community trust that the government would buy the land for.

The land claimants registered in that trust were going to be used as a ladder by politicians to gain control of the land, while at the same time getting huge amounts of money in kickbacks originated from government being charged inflated prices.

Daniel said indeed a community trust was registered and he clashed with its founder Pieter Visagie, who he said led the corruption project – using fraudulent claims to allegedly swindle the government of tens of millions of rands.

Daniel is currently in court, suing government and 24 other respondents for vandalism, intimidation, violent land-claim protests and interference by the Mpumalanga government in his Badplaas business interest.

He said the Ndwandwe Community Trust was hijacked by these unscrupulous officials and contained fake names and false ID numbers which were used to buy the land on behalf of the fake claimants for politicians to have control of the land, putting as a front a list of fake community members who didn’t exist.

Daniel built Nkomazi Wilderness and Cradle of Life nature reserve in the area and when he could not turn Nkomazi Wilderness into the envisioned world class project because of the wars with corrupt officials he sold it in 2008 and continued to run Cradle of Life until earlier this year when he could not stand the pressure and harassment any more and left for good.

He said what was supposed to end up creating job opportunities and transferring ecological, geological and biological knowledge ended up in tatters when politics began to kick in, including the deliberate construction of houses by the provincial government on an airplane landing strip in one of the pieces of land that was going to be turned into a beautiful village lodge resort.

“The corruption in Badplaas is estimated to cost the local community more than R25 billion. The unemployment rate is more than 76%, which is the highest in the world,” Daniel said.

In his court papers, deputy president David Mabuza is a witness, not a respondent as previously reported.

He sues the Mpumalanga government an amount of over R1 billion for money lost while the officials were sabotaging his business, bringing to a halt a dream of many decades.

It’s a “loss of corporate opportunities” after being allegedly sabotaged while he was busy buying land and establishing the Badplaas nature reserve as well as “loss of profit, loss of land values, loss of prospective profits, damages to the property and investments” and prejudice to his good name and reputation.

The court papers say “such losses, damages and prejudice could reasonably have, and should have, been avoided had the various defendants at all relevant times acted lawfully and without exerting duress” on Daniel.

He said that there has been a major defocus in the issue of corruption each time the matter is reported in the media, with attempts to discredit him as as whistleblower of corruption.

(edited by MLM)

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