Paul O’Sullivan gives first testimony in Badplaas land claims case

Paul O’Sullivan gives first testimony in Badplaas land claims case
TOE-TO-TOE: Eco-tourism businessman Fred Daniel (L), whose vision it was to build a world class nature reserve in heart of the Makhonjwa mountains, says his dreams were thwarted by then Premier DD Mabuza's (C) government and is now in court claiming R1.2bn losses in a case that has forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan (R) as the star witness. GRAPHIC IMAGE BY 013NEWS/GCIS/Daily Maverick

O’Sullivan said he began investigating the Mpumalanga issue in 2009.

Private investigator Paul O’Sullivan has become the first witness to testify at the start of the R1.2 billion lawsuit trial brought against the Mpumalanga government at the Pretoria High Court.

The trial was meant to begin on 19 July 2021.

Last week Tuesday, O’Sullivan testified and told the virtual courtroom how he became aware and started investigating the land claims issue in the Badplaas and Barberton area.

He told Judge Cassim Sardiwalla that in 2009 he was approached by a former CEO of the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency to come and investigate the misuse of funds meant to provide for wild animals.

He said that’s how he came to find out about the Badplaas issue.

In 2016 he laid charges of fraud and corruption against the then premier of Mpumalanga and now deputy president David Mabuza after he found a document that Mabuza signed while he was MEC for agriculture and land administration where he ordered the provincial government to pay an outstanding R3.3-million towards the purchase of land for the Ndwandwe Community Trust which allegedly had “false land claimants”.

ALSO SEE: Fred Daniel speaks about lost opportunities

The matter has 14 respondents in total including the land claims commission, the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency and the provincial agricultural department.

Ecotourism businessman Fred Daniel wants the Pretoria High Court to order the Mpumalanga government to pay him R1.2 billion for “loss of corporate opportunities”.

Daniel complains that when he bought land in the Badplaas and Barberton valleys where Mabuza lives, he began clashing with some politicians who wanted the same land he was buying.

He said when he blew the whistle about a list of “false land claimants” compiled to register the Ndwandwe Community Trust – that got 21 farmlands worth around R51-million in 2003 – he began being hated by politicians, who then allegedly mobilised community members to sabotage his Nkomazi Wilderness safari lodge business, accusing him of owning land belonging to dispossessed community members.

Daniel bought 89 adjacent farms totaling 39 000 hectares in the area and fenced them off into one huge piece of land which he turned into an eco-tourism business called ‘Nkomazi Wilderness’ and ‘Cradle of Life’ nature reserve but the investment collapsed due to the squabble with the land claimants, which caused  Daniel to approach the Pretoria High Court and sue the Mpumalanga government for “loss of corporate opportunities, loss of profit, loss of land values, loss of prospective profits, damages to the property and investments” and prejudice to his name and reputation.

The respondents are expected to argue that Daniel bought the land that was under land claims and suffered the loss to his business because of the pains he caused to the land-dwellers that he allegedly cruelly evicted when he bought the farms, replacing them with wild animals on portions of land they had called their homes for decades.

The matter has been in court since July 2010 and is only seeing the light of day 11 years later after Deputy Judge President Lettie Molopa allocated 39 days for a trial this year – 19 July to 10 September 2021.

(edited by ZK)

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