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

2019-07-24 18:37
The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

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

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The acting head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State was not consulted about a document proposing the establishment of the Estina Dairy Farm Project, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.

"I did not sign the submission because I believed at that time I was not even around, as there was a stage I was out of the country," said Dr Tankisi Masiteng.

Masiteng was referring to a document submitted on May 26, 2012, with the purpose of attaining approval for the proposal to enter a partnership with Estina for a dairy project in Vrede, Free State.

The document in question had a signature above Masiteng’s name, who was serving as a chief director in the department at the time.

"The person who signed there appears to have signed on your behalf. It gives the impression that you gave this authorisation to sign on your behalf, the chief director," inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo commented.

"I never authorised the person who signed there to sign on my behalf. I was not consulted," Masiteng said in response.

The inquiry established that Masiteng's passport showed that he had been travelling in China when this document was submitted.

However, it introduced two more documents, one where Masiteng confirmed his signature appears, as well as a memorandum of agreement between Estina and the department.

'HOD cannot submit to himself'

The second document submitted is also an "approval to accept the proposal for the establishment of dairy farm project", he confirmed to the inqiry.

His explanation was that he, as acting head of department, compiled the document under instruction, because an "HOD cannot submit to himself".

"The HOD knew he was deviating from procurement procedures. There is no other company that is willing to give us R200m. He believed it was justified.

"The HOD cannot submit to himself. I was asked to make a submission on the basis of the document given to me," he said.

The commission is currently focusing on the Gupta-linked project, in which 100 black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of an empowerment scheme.

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: Zondo commission shifts to Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project

The inquiry continues.

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