The Laaiplek Magistrates’ Court has released the Klaase family members and their friends on bail, ordered them not to interfere with witnesses and transferred their case to the Bellville Commercial Crimes Court. Their release on bail follows their appearance for defrauding the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform of more than R6m, through its land grant programme.

Willem Klaase, his wife Martha Klaase, their daughter Marga, their sons Wilbur Klaase and Alberto and friends, Brian Phillipus and Elton Smith, were released on bail of R3 000 each, with an added condition that they must not change their residential address without informing the investigating officer.

They were arrested yesterday by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team after an intelligence driven operation was conducted in Laaiplek, Vredenberg and Saldanha.

Around 2000, Willem Klaase, 67, who had been a part time farmer for years, approached the department to enquire about the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) grant. The grant is meant to allow previously disadvantaged black South Africans to acquire farms to change land ownership patterns in South Africa, for the beneficiaries to actively participate in the agricultural economy to ensure food security, stability in national food markets and to ensure profitability and for the beneficiaries to optimally develop the land acquired. It is also meant to acquire equity in existing agricultural enterprise, if security of tenure is ensured.

He applied for the grant in 2003 to purchase the “Rietvlei” in the Aurora District, Piketberg. This application was unsuccessful due to a lack of funding. He applied again in May 2006 and between November 2007 and 31 October 2008, he with a facilitator and business planning agent they employed, submitted a Project Business Plan in the name of Willem Klaase Projek: Welbeloon Boerdery Trust along with various other supporting documents and other representations. They requested the department to allocate the still to-be established trust a LRAD grant with a view to purchase Portion 6 (De La Rey) of the farm Pampoene Kraal No.33 in Piketberg, for R3m and all movable implements and livestock to the value of R1,68m.

They registered the trust at the office of the Master of the High Court on 04 April 2008. The accused, his family members and the two friends became trustees, and 43 other individuals were appointed as beneficiaries of the trust. In their application they indicated that 49 adults, five households, 25 women, 17 young people, 7 pensioners and 20 unemployed people will benefit.

They also indicated that the applicants were emerging farmers with experience in small-scale and commercial farming. They came from a background of subsistence farming with sheep, pigs, cattle, vegetable production and poultry and the majority of them had worked most of their lives in the agricultural sector. Some indicated that they had attended short training courses related to farming, such as poultry, sheep and pastures. They also mentioned that some of the applicants had already commenced participation in a training programme presented by Potato South Africa.

The proposed farming activities were to comprise 20ha of potatoes, 150 ha of oats, 150 ha of lupines and 800 sheep. Between 14 and 31 October 2008
the Provincial Grants Committee (PGC) and the Acting Chief Director of the Department approved the application and R6,2 m was paid.
Willem and his wife then approached beneficiaries with the offer to be beneficiaries of the trust to assist them to obtain the farm. They provided them with pre-filled forms for them to sign. The forms also misrepresented the work status of some of the beneficiaries indicating that they worked for private companies, although later investigations revealed that they were working for a parastatal which disqualified them from benefitting from the LRAD grant.

The State alleges the accused conspired, agreed and decided to obtain the LRAD grant from the department in order to purchase the farm and its movable implements and livestock solely to benefit Willem and his family. The accused caused the department to incur unauthorised expenditure on the farm in the amount of R6 283 867.

Their case has been postponed until 24 July 2023 for further investigation.

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