Guptas 'could not do the job. They didn't even have a screwdriver' - Vrede businessman testifies

2019-07-26 12:12
The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

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A businessman in Vrede in the Free State who was contracted to assist to establish the Estina dairy farm project, told the state capture commission of inquiry that three members of the Gupta family were not equipped to install the processing plant on the farm.

"The Guptas oversaw the work I was doing. They came from India to do the job but they could not do the job. They did not even have a screwdriver," Willie Basson told the commission on Friday.

LIVE | #StateCaptureInquiry hears about malnourished cattle, how 'scrap metal' was used for building material at Vrede dairy farm

The commission's focus has been on the project this week.

As part of the Estina project, 100 black emerging farmers were promised five cows each.

Gifted to Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the Department of Agriculture in the province, the farm has been one of the most controversial transactions between the Guptas and a government entity, News24 earlier reported.

ALSO READ: Mosebenzi Zwane hijacked council meeting to present Vrede dairy farm proposal, state capture inquiry hears

Basson also told the commission that he had to bring in his local workers to install the processing plant because the three people who came from India with containers "could not do the job".

"The containers came from India and I was the only person who had such a large crane to get the equipment out of the containers. There were Guptas from India [there], nobody introduced them to me, they were just. There then they asked me if I could assist them with tools.

"I did so, but then they could not really do the work. So I sent my workers to assist. Any equipment you can think of to erect such a place was given to them. I helped construct the processing plant," he said.

Basson was giving evidence on observations on machinery and equipment used to construct the processing plant; the death of cattle; and people he encountered on the farm. The three members of the Gupta family were never identified.

He did, however, confirm to the commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that he did not know their first names but he was certain that they were members of the Gupta family.

"They even came with their wives and they slept on the premises," he explained.

Evidence leader, advocate Leah Gcabashe, probed further for clarity on whether Basson was referring to the three well-known brothers of the Gupta family who lived in Saxonworld, Johannesburg.

"Not, not at all," he said in response.

ALSO READ: I didn't sign off on Estina dairy farm project, former govt dept head tells Zondo commission

The inquiry continues.

Read more on:    corruption  |  state capture inquiry

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