Mkhwebane to release second Vrede dairy farm report ‘soon’

Mkhwebane to release second Vrede dairy farm report ‘soon’

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during an outreach programme at the Rabasotho Community Center in Tembisa, 21 August 2019. She was joined by the mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mzandile Masina to hear and provide solutions to the communities problems. Picture: Neil McCartney

She said she had completed her interviews with all the politicians allegedly involved, including those at national level and among the ANC’s top brass.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says her investigations into the role played by politicians in the controversial Vrede Dairy Project are at an advanced stage and she will soon release a report.

She was speaking after a signing of the memorandum of understanding between her office and the Free State Provincial Legislature, in which the two bodies vowed to work hand-in-hand in fighting corruption in government.

Mkhwebane said she had completed her interviews with all the politicians allegedly involved, including those at national level and among the ANC’s top brass. Interviews with the intended beneficiaries had also been completed.

Mkhwebane came under fire for failing to indicate the role played by politicians in her first report, completed in 2015, with opposition parties calling it nothing but a whitewash.

That report regarding the multimillion-rand project focused on Treasury and Public Finance Management Act violations.

The Democratic Alliance said the report failed to outline the role played by then premier – now ANC secretary-general – Ace Magashule and former agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, among other politicians, nor did it outline how anyone would be held accountable for the failed project.

It is alleged that the more than R220 million earmarked to assist emerging black farmers in Vrede was looted from the provincial agriculture department.

According to the leaked Gupta e-mails, about R30 million was used to pay for the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

Before the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) provisionally withdrew its case against several Gupta family members and associates in 2018, the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court heard how the provincial agriculture department allegedly paid over R220 million into the Gupta-linked Estina’s Nedbank account, which was thereafter moved to the Bank of Baroda’s pool account.

Mkhwebane’s assurance of ongoing investigations into this controversial case comes just weeks after the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, heard shocking testimonies from the former Free State finance MEC, Elzabe Rockman, and head of the department of agriculture Peter Thabethe.

Thabethe revealed that the Free State department of agriculture had failed to conduct a proper feasibility study, draw up a proper business plan or follow proper technical processes before coughing out millions for this project.

It was also revealed that Estina’s account had held just over R16 on July 4, 2012, days before the provincial government deposited R30 million into it.

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