Zebediela Citrus Estate Beneficiaries Speak Out Against Alleged Financial Malfeasance

Lawyer Tumi Mokoena. (Josue Sebola)

  • Worried beneficiaries of the Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo are railing against alleged financial wrongdoing.
  • The case dates back to 2016 when now-suspended lawyer Tumi Mokwena took over management of the estate.
  • The provincial agriculture department said it “couldn’t enter the space” but encouraged the parties to resolve their issues.

The Zebediela Citrus Estate in Limpopo is once again in the spotlight as affected beneficiaries prepare for a general catchment meeting this weekend over the more than R48 million that has gone unaccounted for.

The matter caught the attention of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which said the investigation had been completed and the case was pending entry into court.

However, the NPA’s deputy director of public prosecutions, attorney Lethabo Mashiane, could not release the details to the media.

Zebediela Citrus Estate, once the largest producer of oranges in the southern hemisphere, was returned to the Bjatladi community as part of the land reform process in 2003.

It is now controlled by the Bjatladi Communal Property Association (CPA).

Affected rights holders, under the aegis of the Save Zebediela Citrus Estate Committee, are now demanding that the CPA produce all financial statements since lawyer Tumi Mokwena, who was suspended from practicing as a barrister, took over the estate management in 2016.

READ | Suspended lawyer Tumi Mokwena faces claim involving trust allegedly used to hide assets

They also demand that the provincial Department of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform institute a forensic audit.

In 2016, Mokwena took over management of the estate, which resulted in the expulsion of strategic partner, John Charles Boyce, from the estate.

In terms of the settlement agreement, Boyce paid R10 million into Mokwena’s trust account, but that money has since gone unaccounted for.

A contract was then signed with Fruitco (Pty) Ltd for the sale of oranges. In addition, the company paid over R28.3 million over a period into Mokwena’s trust account. This amount has also not been accounted for.

The issue was part of a successful request by the Legal Practice Council for Mokwena to be suspended as a practicing solicitor.

Save Zebediela Citrus committee chairman Ike Kekana said there were only two annual general meetings from 2014 to 2019, called by the APC, which did not provide financial statements.

He said that in March this year the committee wrote a letter to Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha expressing its concerns.

The Prime Minister forwarded the letter to the MEC of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Nandi Ndalane to address the concerns.

“The letter was then forwarded to the Chief Director of the department, Mr M Matlala. We expected the Chief Director to call our group and the management of Bjatladi CP to try to resolve the issues raised in our letter to the first minister,” Kekana said.

Instead, we received a letter that does not address even a quarter of our concerns raised in our letter to the Prime Minister.

In the response letter to the committee — which News24 has seen — the department said it was satisfied the Commons Association was up to date with its financial statement submission and other compliance requirements.

APC Deputy Secretary Walter Tlolane said: “The department’s response is sufficient. We have nothing to do with the upcoming meeting. The department and the Prime Minister responded to them.

Provincial agriculture spokesman Joshua Kwapa confirmed that the department had responded to the committee and that “we cannot enter this space”.

“We have called on both parties to settle their differences amicably with a view to resuscitating the [Zebediela Citrus] Real estate,” Kwapa said.

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