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July 14, 2008

South African Land Bank chairperson dismissed

Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana has removed Themba Langa as chairperson of the Land Bank, it was announced on July 7.

He has also been removed as a member of the Land Bank board of directors with immediate effect, the ministry and Land Bank board said in a joint statement.

"The minister removed Mr Langa from his position because of disregarding collective decisions of the board, undermining decision-making processes of the board and unilateral decision-making," they said.

The board's deputy chairperson, Professor Herman van Schalkwyk, will act as chairperson until further notice. A new chairperson will be appointed as soon as possible.

The decision has the support of the board, which said it distances itself from "factually inaccurate" recent media statements attributed to Langa.

In June, Xingwana denied interfering in the activities of the Land Bank. This, out of concern at media reports to this effect.

"The ministry would like to state for the record that the minister's interests in the activities of the board of the Land Bank are those of the shareholder and she has no other role to play in the activities of the board."

The ministry said the board of the Land Bank is independent and its decisions are based on recommendations from management and the various sub-committees, which are tasked to formulate the position that best serves the interests of the bank.

"It is misleading and even mischievous to suggest that the ministry or the minister may have played any role in any credit matters.

"In those instances when inquiries from outside are sent directly to the minister of agriculture and land affairs, Ms Lulu Xingwana always refers the matter to the board, and asks the board to advise her on the decisions that they have made and she respects decisions of the board."

At the time, the ministry also rejected media reports that Langa was expected to tender his resignation in the week of June 23 following a fall-out with Xingwana.

The ministry quoted a letter it received from Langa: "Minister, I [Langa] disassociate myself from Media24 and Sunday Times reports."

It said Xingwana has also not received a letter of resignation from the chair of the risk committee, Modise Motloba, whose contribution to the board she values.

"The chair of the audit committee, Mr Joe Mthimunye, tendered his resignation, and the minister accepted his resignation because she had intended to ask him to resign because of his poor attendance of board meetings."

The ministry said all decision-making regarding the Agri-BEE fund are made within the department, and the Land Bank then disburses the funds.

"A decision was taken by the board to investigate certain of the transaction within the Agri-BEE, and this investigation has the full support of the minister.

"This decision to investigate these transactions was not taken by any one individual and the investigation enjoys the full support of the board."

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