Minister did budget for Zumaville

2012-08-25 16:40

Plan shows R800m would have been diverted to the project.

Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson’s department was planning to spend R800 million on President Jacob Zuma’s ­“Zumaville” project as recently as last month.

Until now the department has vehemently denied budgeting or paying for the project, but a government document in the possession of City Press indicates otherwise.

Titled “Masibambisane: A presidentially led public private partnership agriculture and rural development initiative” and dated July 2012, the draft funding model for “Zumaville” has a telling graphic that shows a circle with R808.5 million in the middle and smaller circles flowing from it.
Different amounts make up the R808.5 million, suggesting that the funding would have been sourced from various funders.

The concept document cites the Independent Development Trust (IDT), Walmart Massmart and Agri Mega as Masibambisane’s private partners.

But a senior source in the department said the private partners had only made offset agreements for the project and would not contribute cash themselves.

“It is the department that will fund this project,” the source said.

This week government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi asked journalists to stop asking questions about individual government departments’ contributions to the Nkandla Development Project – “Zumaville’s” official name – and wait for annual reports to be released in September.

The draft document names Joemat-Pettersson as the liaison member for the Masibambisane project between the president and the agriculture department.

She is under fire as she awaits the release of a damning report by the Public Protector on her accommodation expenditure.

The minister’s critics accuse her of using Masibambisane to ingratiate herself with Zuma, who chairs the project. The deputy chairperson is Deebo Mzobe, a KZN businessman and a member of Zuma’s family.

After being provided with a copy of the document, Joemat-Pettersson’s spokesperson, Palesa Mokomele, told City Press: “We have not spent any money on Masibambisane. There is no budget for Masibambisane. The sources who keep feeding you this information are being malicious.”

Masibambisane started out in Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla, but soon expanded to other provinces, with Zuma and Joemat-Pettersson arriving in villages every month dressed in overalls to hand out tractors and livestock.

“There have been about five events since the launch. And there has been a concentration in the Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo region. Why do you think?” a senior source in the department said.

Leadership positions in the ANC’s OR Tambo region have been closely contested between supporters of Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The document states that the agriculture department and the department of rural development will “work hand in hand in budgeting for projects for implementation through Masibambisane”.

The document says provincial agriculture departments will jointly budget with the national department for projects delivered through Masibambisane.

The concept document assigns the presidency “a keynote role during the ceremonial handing over of projects and resources to communities in support of rural development and food security”.

Sources in the department have repeatedly told the media that R800 million had been allocated for the project, despite the department’s denials.

Mzobe denied that Masibambisane had received R800 million from agriculture.

And Mokomele said the document was a draft and not endorsed by the department. “Please ask your source who verified its contents,” she said.

Sources in agriculture have told City Press that funding for another departmental project, Zero Hunger, was being diverted to Masibambisane.

It was announced in July the department would spend R800 million through Zero Hunger to buy agricultural tools in the Eastern Cape.

“It was Zero Hunger and then it become Masibambisane,” a department insider said.

Masibambisane is cited as the main reason former agriculture director-general Langa Zita was suspended, because he bumped heads with Joemat-Pettersson.

Zita did not respond to requests for comment.

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