Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
TOM & JERRY: The great mystery surrounding the infamous Badplaas land scandal has inched a level up as business man Fred Daniel takes on The Star newspaper, accusing the broadsheet daily of what he calls a 'breathtakingly one-sided story" published on its front page on Thursday 1 Oct 2020. GRAPHIC BY 013NEWS/MLM

Each party seeks to fight off what it sees as a smear campaign.

The Star newspaper is being hauled before press ombud Pippa Green for not giving nature conservationist businessman Fred Daniel the opportunity to comment in a story it published Thursday this week.

The Star made various claims in its front-page story, including that Daniel is the author of the upcoming book called ‘Predator Politics’, which is actually written by journalist Rehana Rossouw.

Editor Sifiso Mahlangu said he doesn’t care if Daniel reports his paper to the ombudsman.

“He can take me wherever he wants to I will present the court documents, the judgement,” said Mahlangu Saturday 3 October 2020,  

He said he learnt for the first time from the 013NEWS reporter that Daniel is actually the person that laid the fraud charge against Nomfundo Sambo and that Daniel is currently in court suing the state for R1.2 billion.

Daniel says he is writing to the ombud to list and complain about “factual errors” in the Star story, including that Sambo’s sentencing is a victory for Mabuza. 

“The article is careless,” Daniel said Thursday 1 October 2020 when he spoke to the 013NEWS reporter.

“The misrepresentation of the truth is breathtaking,” he said, adding that when he opened the fraud case against Sambo in December 2018 he had realised that she was actually hired to trap him into saying things about deputy president DD Mabuza under falsehood. This was done so that he would be arrested for it and have his credibility ruined as a complainant in the R1.2 billion civil claim against the Mpumalanga government at the Tshwane High Court.

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
Deputy president David Mabuza who is engaged in war over reputations with businessman Fred Daniel

Daniel sues for loss of income due to being allegedly sabotaged by politicians while he ran his nature reserve business in the Mpumalanga area of Badplaas.

He built Nkomazi Wilderness and the Cradle of Life nature reserve in Badplaas, few kilometres from Mabuza’s Barberton home, beginning the early 2000s.

He said he was driven by a vision to “heal the earth” when in 1992 he started looking for land that he could turn into an eco and geo-biological reserve, traveling across the Southern African subcontinent until 1998 when he was introduced to the Badplaas and Barberton areas.

From this period Daniel said he began buying parcels of farmland across the area.

ALSO SEE: Fred Daniel talks about lost opportunities

In 2008, when he could not turn Nkomazi Wilderness into the envisioned world class project he had dreamt of when he first began, Daniel sold the game reserve – and continued to run Cradle of Life until 2019 when he could not stand the pressure of the political game any more and left Badplaas.

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
Businessman Fred Daniel

Daniel at the Tshwane High Court sues the Mpumalanga government more than R1 billion for damages caused while his eco-tourism business was sabotaged by politicians, bringing to a halt a dream of many decades that he says could have created a lot of job opportunities.

In Daniel’s civil claim court papers, Mabuza is a witness, not a respondent as reported.

Daniel sues for “loss of corporate opportunities” 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.

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
The Star newspaper on Thursday ran the front-page ‘The Cat is Back’ and subtitled it ‘Deputy President David Mabuza challenges book’s allegations’ and ‘Mabuza cleared in dispute with Fred Daniel’, which businessman Fred Daniel says contained factual errors because the matter is still in court

Mabuza’s office said they were not asked for comment when journalist Rehana Rossouw wrote Predator Politics.

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
Predator Politics: DD, Fred And The Great Land Scam by Rehana Rossouw is yet to be officially released

“We can confirm that the author did not ask the deputy president nor approach the office of the deputy president for comment on the book,” Mabuza’s office said.

Mabuza’s office said they welcomed the 7 year sentence handed down to Nomfundo Sambo – the woman who claimed she was Mabuza’s niece living with him in his Johannesburg house and told  Daniel that Mabuza was planning to assassinate him – saying when the “frivolous allegations” against him were levelled they gained “prominence”.

Daniel laid a charge of fraud against Sambo on 1 December 2018, asking the Hawks “to investigate whether or not the plan was to lure me”.

ALSO SEE: Fred Daniel’s home was protected by Flying Squad on day he heard Mabuza wanted to assassinate him

Sambo, on the day of 8 November 2018 when writing the false affidavit against Mabuza using the false name ‘Thandeka Mabuza’, said while she was cleaning his Johannesburg house she bumped into a diary and amongst the entries was a part written that two assassins were going to be hired to murder Daniel at his Badplaas home.

The two men, whose names were released in the affidavit, were going to meet a third one in Badplaas who was going to aid them during the supposed murder of Daniel.

Daniel lists several “factual errors” in the Star’s Thursday front-page story, including that –

  • Daniel’s lawyers wrote a letter to magistrate Sarel Grabe asking that the matter be withdrawn, when in fact the lawyers wrote to Mabuza’s lawyers, agreeing somewhere in September 2020 that because Daniel had left Mpumalanga the harassment matter be removed from the Court roll because Daniel was no longer under threats of harm from Mabuza, with him having relocated to Gauteng.
  • That a search on civil cases by the Star “revealed that [Daniel] had at one point attempted to sue the [Mpumalanga] state for R1.7 billion”, when in fact he is suing it for R1.2 billion and that the matter is still pending at the Tshwane High Court.
  • That the sentencing of Sambo is a victory for Mabuza when in fact Sambo chose to plead guilty in order to not reveal the names of the people who hired her to write the false affidavit, because if she didn’t plead guilty she was going to be cross-examined inside court, including regarding an amount of R750 000 that was deposited into her bank account by an unknown bank depositor.

Daniel was a land buyer and developer in the Badplaas area from 1998 when he discovered that politicians were using the land claims process to enrich themselves.

While he was busy buying and fencing off the various farmland that the Afrikaner farmers were selling off fearing land claims processes that were starting in 1998, he was in fact tapping on land that politicians eyed to rent out to corporate business to continue agricultural farming.

Politicians were going to compile a list of land claimants and register a community trust that the government would buy the land for, giving political gurus in the area control over the land through the community trust and at the same time earning them huge amounts of money in kickbacks coming from government being charged inflated prices in the course of buying land for the trust.

Daniel said indeed a community trust was then registered in 2003 and it is during this period that his dream of an envisioned world class ecotourism destination began experiencing difficulties, including government deliberately building homes for the poor on an airplane landing strip that was going to form part of the project when the area is turned into a resort.

Mpumalanga battles go to Press Ombudsman
Eco-tourism businessman and whistleblower Fred Daniel who is at a war of reputation with deputy president David Mabuza

He said the corruption in the Badplaas area is estimated at R25 billion and he can prove how these local people are deprived of development by the greed of politicians.

In his complaint to the ombud, Daniel said only allowing Mabuza’s voice in the Star article is worrying and that the article in every sense or its “substance” is “reckless and is biased reporting”.

“The failure to seek my view on the allegations against me is evidence of a hatched job”.

“The allegation in the article that I am the author of the book Predator Politics is false and is intended to discredit one of South Africa’s leading authors Rehana Rossouw who independently wrote the book”. 

(edited by MLM)

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