THESOUTHAFRICAN / 11 JULY 2019 - 10.10 / ANDILE SICETSHA
The Public Protector was updating Parliament's Justice Committee on her office's probe into the controversial Estina.
Briefing the Parliamentary Committee for Justice on Wednesday, Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane made assurances about her renewed investigation into the controversial Estina Dairy Project.
Busisiwe Mkhebane the Public Protector at her office in Pretoria. Photo: TEBOGO LETSIE
You will remember that in May, Mkhwebane’s report on the alleged corruption and mismanagement of funds for the empowerment project was set aside in May by the Gauteng High Court.
Mkhwebane was accused by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) of improperly handling the probe after it was handed over to her by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.
Since then, the Public Protector has re-established interest in the case and on Wednesday, she revealed that her office has made strides in collecting evidence and that it is at an advanced stage.
“The investigation is at an advanced stage. We’ve interviewed all the beneficiaries. We’ve interviewed several politicians; we’re at the final stage of the investigation and we hope by the end of August we’ll be issuing the report,” she told the Justice Committee.
A refresher on the Estina scandal
The biggest criticism against Mkhwebane is her perceived disregard of targeting high-ranking politicians who are believed to have benefitted from the project.
In 2012, the provincial government in Free State awarded Estina, a black-owned business, a multimillion contract to develop dairy farming in Krynaauwslust, a farm near Vrede.
Emerging farmers were promised cows and land for their cattle to graze. The Free State government handed the farm over to Estina on a free 99-year lease, with a reported R334-million in funding to establish the project.
However, the entire project fell apart once figures linked to former president Jacob Zuma’s administration started meddling with the farm’s affairs.
In fact, the Mail & Guardian, which first broke the story in 2013, claimed to have evidence that suggests that former MEC for Agriculture, Mosebenzi Zwane, and secretary-general — and former Free State Premier — Ace Magashule, may have personally benefitted from the multimillion contract.
Furthermore, one of the shocking aspects of the #GuptaLeaks saga was how it was alleged that money from the project was used to fund a Gupta wedding that took place at Sun City in 2013.
When will Mkhwebane present her findings?
None of this evidence has ever yielded any arrests or prosecutions, however. All eyes will be peeled onto Mkhwebane when she finally delivers her findings which are expected by the end of August.
Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER