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Letaba Ranch: A nest of corruption

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A massive nest of corruption, fraud and bribery concerning hunting rights in the well-known Letaba Ranch Game Reserve has started to come to light in recent weeks.

According to an anonymous source from the area, a pastor from Phalaborwa and a relative of his are two of the most important role players in the selling and reselling of hunting rights for this area.

For decades, rumours have been flying around regarding illegal hunting and poaching in this Reserve.

What makes these illegal hunts even worse, is the fact that there is no fence between Letaba Ranch and the Kruger National Park.

In effect this means the KNP’s animals are being hunted illegally.

Documents and sound recordings which have come into the Herald’s possesion, expose a trail of illegalities in the hunting industry.

This evidence can implicate some of the biggest names in the Phalaborwa hunting industry as well as in the Provincial Government.

The evidence in the Herald’s posession, among other things, show a corrupt relationship between various well-known members of Phalaborwa’s hunting community and a certain Timothy Malatji. Malatji, a pastor from the area, but also the Chairman of the Community Property Association (CPA), together with his relative Nicholas Malatji, form the centre of a network of payments and contracts for hunting rights on the same piece of land; the farms in the Letaba Ranch Game Reserve on which the CPA have a registered land claim.

The claim, though already registered, has not been restituted yet, due to several other registered claims on the same land, by other rural communities in the area.

According to sources in the industry, the Selwane Community controls the hunting rights for the biggest part of this controversial area.

Evidence show hunters, who want hunting rights in this area, pay a middleman who on his turn pays the pastor.

The middleman, a certain Nicholas Malatji, is a relative of Pastor Timothy Malatji, but also the only known director of a company called Starain Consultants. Starain Consultants is also the name which appears on several receipts for payments in the Herald’s possesion.

One of the paper trails start with a hunting outfitter named Glen Haldane. In June this year Haldane, one of the owners of Gamehunters Africa, paid a total of R450 000 to the Malatji’s in return for hunting rights in the Reserve.

This amount was broken up into three transaction. Firstly, on 10/06/2015 an amount of R50 000 cash was paid to both Malatji’s.

A copy of a handwritten receipt, signed al parties, is in the Herald’s possesion.

Two further electronic payments were also made to Starain Consultants by Gamehunters Africa. The first, on 12/06/2015, was for the amount of R250 000 and the second, on 13/06/2015, for the amount of R150 000.

A copy of proof of payments for both these transactions are also in the Herald’s possesion.

“At the moment I am hesitant to comment. I have already been to see my own lawyer and we are starting our own legal proceedings against everybody involved,” Glen Haldane told the Herald.

After a lot of calls, the Herald finally managed to get hold of Nicholas Malatji. He was very elusive accused the Herald of using fake and manufactured evidence to falsely accuse him of criminal activities. He also repeatedly asked who the Herald’s sources were. Malatji alleges he has nothing to do with any transactions in the hunting industry.

According to him, he works in the construction industry and the R450 000 that Haldane paid him, was payment for consultation work he did for him in this capacity. He did not want to say what construction project he consulted Haldane on.

The Herald has a voice recording in its possession, where Nicholas Malatji can be clearly heard, describing the route the payments made to him will take.

In the recording he states that people who want hunting rights in the Reserve must pay him large amounts per quarter. On his turn, he allegedly pays a share of the money to Timothy Malatji and then a share to Kaizer Mdluli. Mdluli, the senior manager of State Property in the Capricorn area, who was suspended recently, but has been reinstated in his position until an internal investigation can be finished, then pays a share of the money to Tele Maphoto. All this according to Nicholas Malatji. Maphoto is the Chief Landclaims Commisioner for the Limpopo Province.

The Herald has in its possesion a copy of hunting rights in the Reserve, which was allegedly granted the Selwani Clan by the Department of Rural Development & Land Reform (DRDLR). Timothy Malatji is alleged to have been the middleman in this transaction and his name appears at the top of this document.

The document is signed by a certain E.R. Dowelani. Dowelani, the acting Chief of DRDLR, declined to comment because of the ongoing internal investigation into this matter. What he did say, was that his department does notissue hunting rights in their development areas.

After several phone calls to role players in the Phalaborwa hunting circles, is seems clear that this corruption is only the ears of the hippo.Except for Haldane, other hunting outfitters seem to have crossed paths with the Malatji’s. At the time of going to press the Herald still hasn’t received any comment from Ledet or the various owners of hunting rights in the Reserve. Any person with more information on this story can contact the Herald at hendrik@herald.co.za and residents are assured, their identities will remain secret.

Resdients can also follow the Herald over the next few weeks for more information on this story as it unfolds.

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