Non-ANC members excluded in Magashule’s Free State, commission hears
CITIZEN.CO.ZA / 25 JULY 2019 - 13.13 / BRIAN SOKUTU
Vrede businessperson Phindile Radebe told the state capture commission several of his cattle had died because non-ANC members couldn’t even use veterinary services.
The constitution compels civil servants to serve all citizens regardless of political affiliation, but in the Free State when Ace Magashule was premier, it was very different.
Vrede businessperson Phindile Radebe’s testimony on Thursday painted a picture of a province in the grip of lawlessness and obsessed with party political affiliation during Magashule’s tenure.
Former Democratic Alliance Councillor of the Phumelele Municipality in Vrede Phindile Radebe is pictured after giving evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Parktown, 25 July 2019. Picture: Refilwe Modise
A cattle farmer, Radebe’s testimony to the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture highlighted how government officials dealt with those who were not ruling party members.
He told the commission several of his cattle had died because non-ANC members were even excluded from veterinary services.
Radebe, who is also a Democratic Alliance councillor in the Phumelele Municipality, which governs Vrede, said whistle-blowers on the failed Gupta-linked multimillion-rand Estina dairy project were threatened.
Among those who were killed under mysterious circumstances after openly criticising the venture, which ended up benefiting Gupta-linked companies, was Philemon Ngwenya, Moses Chauke and a farmer from Warden.
“Empty promises were made to us and his family [Ngwenya’s]. When you talk the truth you die,” was how Radebe explained Ngwenya’s killing last year, adding that the police did not investigate the death.
Radebe’s testimony corroborated earlier evidence from Ephraim Dhlamini about how emerging cattle farmers were duped by the Free State government into believing Estina would empower them. This did not happen, however, although they were listed as beneficiaries.
Touted as a public-private partnership with Estina – a black economic empowerment company – the project was established in 2012 by the province’s department of agriculture with a 99-year lease on Krynaauwslust farm.
It has been claimed that of the millions earmarked for the diary project, only 1% of public funds went to Estina for farming, with most of the money having been diverted to Gupta business associates.
One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they did not receive them.
During his testimony, Willie Basson – another witnesses in the Vrede saga – said he had assumed that Estina belonged to the Gupta family as he had met the Gupta brothers at the farm.
Basson, who was hired by a private construction company to assist in the Estina project, revealed that the information technology company did not have machinery, but that Estina had invoiced the provincial government “for work done”.
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