CITIZEN.CO.ZA. / 22 JULY 2019 - 08.09 / BRIAN SOKUTU
Mosebenzi Zwane, Mamiki Gqabathe and former head of department Peter Thabethe were also allowed to avoid accountability, the state capture commission heard.
The remedial action contained in Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s 2018 report on the failed Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project in the Free State had allowed culprits to avoid accountability.
This was according to Democratic Alliance (DA) member of the Free State legislature Roy Jankielsohn, who appeared at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday.
Member of the Free State legislature Roy Jankielsohn is pictured at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, 22 July 2019. Picture: Refilwe Modise
He said Mkhwebane had failed to hold former premier Ace Magashule, former agriculture executive committee members (MEC) Mosebenzi Zwane and Mamiki Gqabathe, and former head of department (HOD) Peter Thabethe to account for the venture that cost taxpayers more than R300 million.
The project was touted as a flagship public-private partnership with Estina – a black economic empowerment company – to empower emerging black farmers and was based in the impoverished Free State town of Vrede.
It was established in 2012 by the department of agriculture on a 99-year lease.
While millions of rands were earmarked for the project, only 1% of public funds is said to have gone towards actual farming, with most of the money diverted to Gupta business associates.
Emerging local farmers who were promised five cows each, as part of the empowerment scheme, received nothing.
“[Mkhwebane’s] investigation should have been extended to include politicians. I was not happy with the manner in which the public protector dealt with the [investigation], despite having found that there were irregularities,” said Jankielsohn.
Mkhwebane failed to talk to project beneficiaries during her probe, and merely asked Magashule to implement remedial action.
“The premier, who is responsible for appointing HODs and MECs, was aware of irregularities but failed to take action.
“If one considers concerns raised about the legality of the project … I maintain that Mr Magashule, Mr Zwane, Miss Gqabathe were aware of problems related to Estina but allowed payments to continue.
“Failure to implement disciplinary action against the HOD, makes them complicit in the irregularities and malfeasance in the Vrede project.
“They deliberately ignored action. Estina never contributed its own funds but the government continued to pay the company.”
Jankielsohn said: “Those in senior positions knew what happened in Vrede but continued to appropriate funds and even continue to allocate funding today.”
The hearings into Estina continue today.
Proceedings back to normal after Zuma circus
Gone was the cordon of steel barricades, the roaring, clapping and chanting supporters of Jacob Zuma, who last week turned up in large numbers at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture – a security nightmare for the police and commission staff.
On Monday, as the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, began hearing new evidence on the scandalous transaction involving the Gupta family in the failed Estina dairy project – that saw over R300 million being siphoned from Free State government during the tenure of then premier Ace Magashule – there was an unusually tranquil atmosphere inside and around the precinct of the Parktown venue.
Last week saw a hive of activity on Empire Road: a visible presence of armoured vehicles, uniformed police – some in plain clothes – and camouflage-clad Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) members, roaming around the state capture commission precinct.
Inside the venue, not only had the number of journalists dwindled to a handful, but there were few people gracing the usually packed public gallery.
For the media and members of the public to find a suitable seat inside the venue to witness and cover the spectacular event meant braving the winter chill to arrive in Parktown from around 6am for registration and accreditation at the nearby Camp of Christ Ministries.
For now, it is back to normal until the Zuma circus returns to town.
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