Mkhwebane explains previously investigated Mosebenzi Zwane’s presence at her 50th birthday

Mkhwebane explains previously investigated Mosebenzi Zwane’s presence at her 50th birthday

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during an outreach programme at the Rabasotho Community Center in Tembisa, 21 August 2019. Picture: Neil McCartney

The public protector assured the country that no conflict of interest would arise from her birthday party at the weekend.

Following the star-studded celebration of her 50th birthday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has come out defending her birthday guestlist as it contained ANC MP Mosebenzi Zwane, who was the subject of one of Mkhwebane’s investigations in 2018 into the botched Estina Dairy Farm Project in the Free State.

Mkhwebane celebrated her 50th birthday at the weekend, alongside some prominent members of society. Zwane, Dali Mpofu, and African Transformation head of policy Mzwanele Manyi, as well as former deputy director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, were some of those who attended.

On Monday, Mkhwebane tweeted that there would be no conflict of interest after public criticism that she had invited individuals who were the subject of ongoing investigations by the public protector’s office.

“Let me take this opportunity to thank the family, friends, legal fraternity, pastors, traditional leaders and colleagues who celebrated with me the golden jubilee. The president and deputy president were also invited and could not attend. No conflict of interest will arise.”

Part of her tweet was an apology from the deputy president’s office, which stated reasons why David Mabuza could not attend. President Cyril Ramaphosa was also invited but could not make the celebrations.

Mkhwebane took over the dairy farm investigation from her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela. Her probe did not find any wrongdoing by provincial politicians such as then provincial premier Ace Magashule and former agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, and instead laid the blame on senior officials in the provincial agriculture department.

The highly criticised report was declared invalid and was set aside by the Pretoria High Court. E-mails dubbed the GuptaLeaks showed that at least R30 million of public funds for the project was used to allegedly pay for the Gupta family’s extravagant wedding in Sun City resort in 2013.

Mkhwebane is challenging the high court ruling in the Constitutional Court. She has since launched a fresh investigation into the dairy farm project.

In December, she dismissed claims that critical information implicating Magashule and Zwane in the Vrede Dairy Farm scheme was removed from the report at her instruction.

News24 reported that a whistleblower highlighted information relating to the intended beneficiaries of the Gupta-linked scheme, which saw public funds funnelled through the farms holding company Estina, was removed at Mkhwebane’s request.

In a tweet, she dismissed the accusations.

(Compiled by Gopolang Moloko)

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