Opposition parties in the Free State are demanding the arrest of politicians who have been implicated in the Estina dairy farm scandal.
In a report released recently, the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, found that there was political meddling in the multi-million-rand project in Vrede.
Mkhwebane found that Vrede project beneficiaries have been prejudiced. Her report has also revealed that the Free State government failed to execute its oversight responsibilities.
In this regard, Mkhwebane has blamed former Premier Ace Magashule, MEC Mamiki Qabathe, former MECs Mosebenzi Zwane and Elsabe Rockman.
In her report, Mkhwebane found that their conduct amounted to maladministration. She also found that the provincial executive council had improperly appropriated funds for the project.
Mkhwebane releases investigative reports:
Democratic Alliance (DA) Free State leader, Dr Roy Jankielsohn, has welcomed the public protector’s report.
“The recent public protector’s report confirms the DA initial concerns. Firstly, there was improper conduct and maladministration by former Premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, former MEC’s Zwane, Rockman and current MEC Mamiki Qabathe. The report also indicates that there was undue influence by the Gupta family on these individuals. Very importantly, the report also indicates that the beneficiaries have been totally sidelined during this process.”
Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) Member of Parliament, Tammy Breedt, has called for all those implicated to be criminally charged.
“The FF Plus would like to see that taxpayers’ money which was wasted and spent on this project be recovered from every single individual responsible for it. We would also like to see that not only the officials but the implicated politicians be brought to book. That criminal charges be laid and that proper consequences do take their cause.”
However, the Economic Freedom Fighters Free State leader, Mandisa Makesini, says, “It sounds very confusing when the public protector highlighted some few issues that the exco and premier have failed to do oversight. But they can’t hold them accountable individually. So, my question to them is who will be held accountable.”
The Free State Agriculture Department has been ordered to apologise to the families of the beneficiaries within 30 days.
Some of the would-be beneficiaries have already died.
Free State Agriculture Spokesperson, Zimasa Leputla says, “We have begun to engage with the beneficiaries. At the beginning of the year, we met with the beneficiaries, with the purpose to reiterate our commitment that we are going to continue with the Vrede Dairy Farm Project. We also apologised to the beneficiaries for the delays we caused. Secondly, we had embarked on a process to verify all the beneficiaries, as you may know, that some of the beneficiaries had since passed on. We are dealing with how we are going to have their family representatives integrated into the list.”
Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela is currently studying the report and says she will only comment afterwards.
Mkhwebane has ordered that the report be tabled before the Free State Legislature within 30 days and that the Hawks should pursue a criminal investigation if they identify unlawful conduct against the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the DA has lodged a High Court application that seeks to compel the government to recognise more than 80 people as the rightful beneficiaries of the multi-million-rand project.
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