Zondo commission to probe Estina dairy farm corruption

High tech milking equipment during a site visit by the leader of the DA, Mmusi Maimane to the Vrede Dairy farm that was run by Gupta company Estina, 12 July 2017. It was intended to benefit the communiy but has been alleged to be a front for money laundering and also alleged to have been the source of funds for the Gupta wedding. Picture: Neil McCartney

High tech milking equipment during a site visit by the leader of the DA, Mmusi Maimane to the Vrede Dairy farm that was run by Gupta company Estina, 12 July 2017. It was intended to benefit the communiy but has been alleged to be a front for money laundering and also alleged to have been the source of funds for the Gupta wedding. Picture: Neil McCartney

Gross negligence and maladministration cost the Free State government at least R300 million in a two-year period.

This week, the spotlight at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture is set to shift from Jacob Zuma to the multimillion-rand siphoning of state funds through the Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project in the Free State.

The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) are expected to intensify pressure on National Prosecution Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi to reopen the NPA investigation into those implicated.

The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, will today hear the testimony of DA member of the Free State legislature Roy Jankielsohn and the evidence of Albertus Venter, deputy director of corporate administration and coordination in the premier’s office.

Between 2013 and 2016, Jankielsohn submitted three complaints to the public protector in respect of Estina, calling for a probe into the role of then premier Ace Magashule.

The DA and Casac have been at the forefront to get Batohi to reopen the Estina investigation after the NPA, then under Shaun Abrahams, dropped charges last year, citing lack of cooperation from India and the United Arab Emirates, where the Guptas live.

In what the DA and Casac described as a “whitewash”, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane last year released a report into Estina corruption, highlighting procurement irregularities and gross negligence and maladministration which cost the Free State government more than R300 million in a two-year period.

R30 million of this, the Gupta Leaks claimed, was laundered through Dubai.

But instead of probing those implicated, notably Magashule and former agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, Mkhwebane merely made a recommendation that Magashule himself “initiate and institute disciplinary action” – which was not carried out.

Following a DA and Casac court application last year, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Mkhwebane’s report was unconstitutional and invalid.

In the application, the DA argued Mkhwebane had failed to investigate the complaints lodged by Jankielsohn.

– brians@citizen. co.za

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