Public protector ignored full extent of the rot at Estina dairy farm project, DA argues

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane  ignored a lot of evidence in her investigation of the Vrede dairy farm project, the DA has argued in the North Gauteng High Court. The party wants the court to set aside Mkhwebane's report on the project, which was released earlier this year.

The DA is arguing  that Mkhwebane did not comply with section 182 (1) of the constitution, acted irrationally and failed to exercise her power and functions in good faith. Representing the DA, Janice Bleazard argued that Mkhwebane ignored a complaint on the Vrede farm project, which was made by Dr Roy Jankielsohn.

Bleazard said Mkhwebane also ignored a report from the National Treasury, which identified a lot of irregularities in the project.

An amount of R220m was poured into the initiative, with only R2m spent on the actual farm. The project established a dairy farm in Vrede, in the Free State, in partnership with company Estina that was linked to the controversial Gupta. Estina allegedly transfered money to the Guptas. The initiative was adopted by the provincial government without a tender.

In her report, Mkhwebane found that payments to Estina were not done according to Treasury regulations and that the agreement between the Free State agriculture department and Estina was invalid.

The DA wants the report set aside as it also has no indication of the role played by then Free State premier Ace Magashule and MEC for agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane.

Bleazard said the project was a public-private partnership but it failed to meet Treasury requirements for such. "One of these was a feasibility study, which was never conducted," she said.

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