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Thursday Jul 17, 2014

'Operation Bring Back' set to reclaim many of state's properties

Public Works is moving to recover 'stolen state property' from individuals who are claiming buildings, properties and even farms as their own without being able to prove acquisition, which in some cases dates to before the 1994 democratic transition.

Among those properties under scrutiny is Vlakplaas, the base for the notorious apartheid death squad headed by convicted murderer Eugene de Kock.

'Some people are claiming that property,' Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi said during yesterday's pre-budget vote briefing.

Other properties it wants to reclaim for the state under 'Operation Bring Back' are scattered across the former homelands of Transkei, Ciskei, Bophuthatswana and Venda.

'There were many properties that belonged to government. Now they belong to individuals... They are using them as B&Bs. There are no records (of acquisition).'

It is understood preparations for 'Operation Bring Back' are at an advanced stage and, according to an insider, it is expected to be formally launched shortly.

The initiative comes as Public Works has almost completed a national register of assets - 107 000 properties on some 30 000 parcels of land have physically been verified - with the outstanding 5 percent to be completed by early 2016.

Once this process has been finalised, the national department would liaise with its provincial counterparts to extend the asset register to provincial and even local government levels.

'This is a game-changer. We now have a much better idea of what we own. And we can start to use this massive property portfolio to leverage economic development and job creation.'

Nxesi was determinedly upbeat yesterday about the clean-up in his troubled department, which has received negative audit findings for years.

The Star


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