Former municipal manager in dock for 'unlawful' sale of land

10 October 2023 - 20:08
By Ernest Mabuza
Former Mahikeng municipality manager Hennie Smit.
Image: NPA Communications. Former Mahikeng municipality manager Hennie Smit.

A former Mahikeng municipal manager who allegedly had a hand in the fraudulent sale of municipal land worth R144m in 2007 appeared in court on Tuesday. 

The appearance of Hennie Smit, 70, follows his arrest by members of the Hawks’ serious corruption investigation and serious commercial crime investigation units earlier in the day. He was granted R150,000 bail. 

“His arrest and court appearance relate to the unlawful sale of municipal land to the value of R144m without council approval and further ignoring the competitive bidding process,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Henry Mamothame.  

It is alleged that in October 2007, Smit illegally agreed with a company on the sale of land belonging to the municipality. The company paid a R5m deposit. 

The company went into liquidation in December 2011 without paying the outstanding debt. The assets of the company were later sold to another company for R16m at auction.

In April 2012, the new owners of the land changed their company name, and between 2013 and 2015 sold and transferred portions of the land to five other companies and a trust account.

“Investigations by the Hawks revealed that directors and shareholders of these companies had links to the company that was liquidated and they acted in common interest in illegally making gains from the municipal land that was acquired irregularly,” Mamothame said.

It is also alleged the company that bought the land from the auction entered into an unlawful agreement with the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) to build 2,400 units at the value of more than R301m. The North West department of human settlements authorised R54m for the start of the project.

“This contract, however, failed to materialise, as it was not budgeted for by SHRA.”

Mamothame said Smit faces a number of counts including fraud, theft, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management and the Public Finance Management acts.