Report exposes minister’s ‘Zumaville’ denials

2012-10-20 17:48

The Masibambisane rural development programme received at least R268 000 in “irregular payments” from the agriculture department.

This is revealed in the department’s annual report, and directly contradicts repeated denials from both the department and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson that it gave any money to Masibambisane.

Masibambisane is the engine room driving “Zumaville” – the development near President Jacob Zuma’s home village, Nkandla.

In August, City Press reported on the department’s plan to spend R800 million on the Nkandla project as recently as July.

But the department insisted the funding was never on the cards and that a draft document seen by City Press had been rejected.

At the time, the minister’s spokesperson Palesa Mokomele told City Press: “We have not spent any money on Masibambisane.

There is no budget for Masibambisane.”

But the annual report this week suggested otherwise.

The department’s director-general condoned the irregular payment, and no further action will be taken.

The department was grilled in Parliament this week, with opposition and ANC MPs alike complaining that it was not accounting adequately
for the money it spent.

It received an unqualified report from the Auditor-General, but Parliament’s agriculture committee still had tough questions.

Of particular concern was Operation Zero Hunger, which has also been linked to Masibambisane and reportedly had a budget of R70 million.

Officials in the department previously told City Press funding set aside for Operation Zero Hunger had gone to Masibambisane.

But in its annual report, the department stated that the Zero Hunger strategy, which was supposed to be approved in the previous financial year, had been temporarily withdrawn.

“Lengthy Cabinet processes led to the policy being temporarily withdrawn,” the department said.

In another meeting, the department’s chief financial officer Jacob Hlatshwayo said the project had been stopped and the money has been allocated to other things.

The committee has now asked the department to explain what happened to the R70 million.

There’s another link to Masibambisane in the department’s mechanisation project.

Funds from this project were allegedly used to supply the tractors Joemat-Pettersson and Zuma have distributed at launches.

Committee members said in this week’s discussion they were told the mechanisation support model could not be approved and would be finalised in the first quarter of next year.

But tractors have been distributed in some provinces since June last year, despite there being no policy in place to direct the process.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is now investigating the so-called “Zumaville” project.

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