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State capture: Free State gripped by 'culture of fear' under Ace Magashule

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has been fingered at the state capture inquiry for his role in the Estina scandal while he was Free State premier.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has been fingered at the state capture inquiry for his role in the Estina scandal while he was Free State premier.

DA Free State leader Roy Jankielsohn has described "a culture of fear" that gripped the province under former premier Ace Magashule.

Jankielsohn was testifying about the controversial Estina dairy farm project in Vrede during his appearance at the state capture inquiry on Monday.

The farming project, signed off in 2012, was promoted as a tool by the provincial government to benefit small-scale Free State farmers, using their services to produce and sell milk on a large scale.

However, of the R220m transferred out of state coffers to Estina - a Gupta-linked company contracted by the provincial department of agriculture to run the project - only 1% was spent on actual farming. Most of the remaining money went to individuals and entities associated with the Guptas.

Magashule, who now serves as the ANC's secretary-general, and former Free State agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane are allegedly among the key facilitators who oversaw the controversial deal.

Jankielsohn said intended beneficiaries were too afraid to speak out because of a culture of fear that gripped the province.

"The beneficiaries are the most important people in this project. They are the ones who were supposed to benefit from this project to receive some sort of livelihood and meaningful employment. These beneficiaries should have been at the core of the implementation of this project," he said.

"Our concern is based on that the beneficiaries have been sidelined from the beginning from this project. I think that the biggest crime committed here, besides any possibilities of financial malfeasance and mismanagement, is when politicians give people hope and then dash those hopes - and that is exactly what has happened in this project.

"There was also last year a beneficiary who was very vocal about this project, Mr [Philemon] Ngwenya, who was murdered. The rumour on the ground is that he was murdered because he was very vocal about the project. So there is a certain amount of fear among beneficiaries."

Jankielsohn said government officials were also too scared to expose any form of corruption or wrongdoing.

"Within the Free State government, we do have a culture of fear among officials. Officials are appointed in their positions in terms of specific government policy, the cadre policy, and there is a culture of fear that if you speak about any malfeasance, there will be consequences," he said.

"In one specific case, in February 2013, Moses Tshake was abducted, kidnapped, tortured and murdered. He was working within the department. It is alleged that he was looking into and questioning some of the payments the department was making toward Estina. That adds to the culture of fear within the provincial government."

The state capture inquiry will hear evidence relating to the Estina dairy farm scandal in  the next two weeks.

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