AS IT HAPPENED: Former Vrede councillor attacked by 'Zwane's private force' after reporting dairy farm mismanagement, #StateCaptureInquiry hears

2019-07-25 13:30

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture continued with testimony related to the Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project in Vrede and heard allegations of mismanagement, physical violence and political interference.


(Courtesy of SABC)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo

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Last Updated at 20:50
25 Jul 13:35

Zondo cuts Basson's testimony short, as Gcabashe once again expresses that she is "very concerned" about the accuracy of the translations. Gcabashe agrees with Zondo that perhaps it would be better if the commission gets hold of another interpreter. 

As a result, Zondo stands down today's proceedings until tomorrow, when Basson has agreed to return. 

Zondo adjourns for the day, and proceedings will resume at 09:30 tomorrow morning.

25 Jul 13:31

Basson mentions that he had met "three Guptas" on the farm, who he refers to as the "heads of the family". Basson says they were introduced to him as the Guptas.

25 Jul 13:28

There seems to be a slight issue with inconsistencies in the direct translations of Basson's testimony, which evidence leader Advocate Leah Gcabashe occasionally picks up.

25 Jul 13:21

Basson says the contractor who was hired by Estina did not have any machinery, and Basson was asked to bring his machinery and work with the contractor. Basson has invoices that were sent to Estina for the work. Basson says he was hired by EG Constructions to come and help on the farm.

25 Jul 13:11

25 Jul 13:09

Basson says he was contacted by CP Prasad, who managed the dairy farm, to help with building dams on the farm. Basson also built a shed on the farm.

25 Jul 13:00

Basson tells the commission that his expertise lies in farming cattle for meat, and he's also an experienced game farmer. He is not too well-versed in dairy farming, he says.

25 Jul 12:51

Basson is providing his testimony in Afrikaans, with the help of a translator. He confirms that he lives in Vrede, and now also lists other properties and businesses he owns. 

25 Jul 12:45

Proceedings finally resume following the prolonged tea break, after a translator for the next witness, Willie Basson, was sorted out. 

Basson is a businessman from Vrede and his testimony will deal with equipment supplied to the dairy farm, his perspective of the cattle deaths at the farm, and his dealings with people on the farm. He is now sworn in.

25 Jul 12:14

25 Jul 11:51

Zondo assures Radebe the commission will do its best to look into the matters that he has raised and highlighted. 

Zondo thanks Radebe for his testimony and excuses him, before calling for the morning adjournment. 

Back at 11:55.

25 Jul 11:47

Radebe: "In 2017, towards the end of 2017, in Phumelela municipal storerooms, did surface four brand new [Range] Rovers, and when we followed on that case we found that there was a document from the Department of Agriculture, which said those cars were bought by the Department of Agriculture to fund the farmers, with two Range Rovers..."

Radebe says up to today, everybody in the community is at a loss. "We don't know what happened with that case," says Radebe. 

Radebe wraps up his testimony by telling Zondo that the commission is the "last resort for us as whistleblowers, and people on the ground to speak to".

Radebe finally asks the commission to please look into the harassment that the whistleblowers suffer. "It's not just a physical one. This thing goes deep - deep, deep, deep, deep - and it puts the life of the people who speak out at risk, and most of the time we live in fear..."

25 Jul 11:34

Radebe is asked if there is anything else he would like to tell the commission and he says "Yes," and proceeds to mention the case of Mose Tshake, who was kidnapped, attacked/tortured and who later died in hospital.

Radebe also brings up the case of Philemon Ngwenya, who was killed last year. Radebe says there is no progress on the case, and the people responsible have not been arrested.

25 Jul 11:29

Radebe says the Free State Department of Agriculture was turned into an "ANC office" under Zwane, and as a farmer, Radebe's own cattle got sick and he received little assistance.

25 Jul 11:21

25 Jul 11:19

Radebe shares the names of three other people whom he also personally knew were attacked, in 2014. They were also turned away by police. Zondo once again expresses his concern at the lack of interest from law enforcement officials, when these incidents were reported to them, and instructs the commission's legal team to pursue these matters.

25 Jul 11:15

25 Jul 11:11

Radebe tells Zondo that when he went to report the attack and threats at the police station, he was turned away.

25 Jul 11:09

Radebe says the people who attacked him were driving around with someone named Frans Mokoena, who Radebe says is a well-known "tenderpreneur" in Phumelela. "He used to get tenders left and right in that area," Radebe says. Radebe says one of the first big tenders Mokoena got was to build RDP houses when Mosebenzi Zwane was the MEC of Cogta, around 2009.

Radebe names the other people in the car who attacked him - Bongani Radebe, Dingaan Dinga, and Anton Sibeko.

"Then I was attacked, I was even sprayed with pepper spray, on the eyes," says Radebe. "They say that I'm disturbing the ANC from doing its work."

Radebe earlier called the group "Mr Zwane's private force". Bongani Radebe and Dingaan Dinga were security guards at his office. Radebe also mentions Thuto Kganye, who was working in Zwane's office.  

25 Jul 10:58

25 Jul 10:57

Radebe references reports of dead cattle from the dairy farm, says cattle were purchased for the farm in late 2013, and in February 2014 he was alerted to cattle carcasses piling up in a stream, which was a source of drinking water for the community. 

Radebe says when he visited the site himself, he saw about 45 carcasses in various stages of decomposition piled up in the stream. Some dumped carcasses were still fresh, Radebe says.

Radebe had alerted the media and the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Radebe points to improper care and maintenance of the cattle, and says they died of starvation, and they weren't vaccinated properly.

25 Jul 10:47

25 Jul 10:46

Radebe repeatedly refers to the Vrede farm project as the "dairy scam". Radebe says the council resolved to lease the land directly to the Office of the Premier, so that they could then lease it to Estina. Radebe says the lease agreement was for 11 years, but he later found out that the Department of Agriculture leased the land to Estina for 99 years, rent-free.

25 Jul 10:43

25 Jul 10:37

Radebe says Phumelela Local Municipality mayor, John Motaung, who was "like a brother" to Zwane, has been mayor for three consecutive terms. Radebe says it was Motaung who pushed the council for approval on the dairy farm project.

25 Jul 10:33

25 Jul 10:32

25 Jul 10:31

Radebe tells the commission that of the 15 council members present, only three were opposition councillors, and the rest were ANC councillors.

25 Jul 10:29

Radebe says the department was throwing numbers around and not showing them any business plan or any official documents.

25 Jul 10:25

25 Jul 10:21

25 Jul 10:21

25 Jul 10:20

25 Jul 10:12

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo gets proceedings under way. The first witness, Mr Doctor Radebe, a former DA councillor from Phumelela municipality in Vrede, is sworn in.

Radebe resides in Vrede and is also a farmer.

25 Jul 09:57

25 Jul 09:57


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

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 Takisi 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.

25 Jul 09:57


Hawks did not investigate death threats, Estina beneficiary tells state capture inquiry 

Death threats aimed at Estina dairy farm project beneficiary Ephraim Dhlamini were not investigated by the Hawks, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Wednesday.

These threats were made shortly after the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) visited the project in the Free State and closed it down, the commission heard.

"They did not inform me that they were coming and that they were looking for me. Next thing I heard, Vrede police were looking for me. 

"I went to them and they told me that they shut down the project, together with the NPA and that they have compiled all of the assets that are there," Dhlamini testified at the inquiry, where the spotlight was on the Gupta-linked project.

25 Jul 09:57


'I do not trust the Public Protector' - Estina dairy farm project beneficiary 

A beneficiary of the controversial Estina dairy farm project in Vrede in the Free State says he still does not trust Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

"We (beneficiaries) got to a point where we did not trust her. I did not trust her as a person anymore. Even to this day, I do not trust her," Ephraim Dhlamini told the state capture commission of inquiry on Wednesday.

Dhlamini's evidence put the spotlight on the Gupta-linked project, in which one hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of an empowerment scheme.

25 Jul 09:57


Estina dairy project: State capture hears how Zwane took church choir to India instead of beneficiaries 

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has heard how bold promises were made to beneficiaries of the collapsed Gupta-linked Vrede dairy project, but nothing ever materialised.

On Tuesday, Ephraim Dhlamini, one of the project's beneficiaries, told the Zondo commission farmers were promised trips to India for training and cattle to kickstart the project.

Instead, the former agriculture MEC in the Free State, Mosebenzi Zwane, sent members of his church choir for training, he claimed.

Dhlamini said Zwane's father was a pastor and in charge of the choir, adding it had to cut its trip short because its members all had diarrhoea while in India. 

25 Jul 09:57


Estina farm project: State capture inquiry hears how legislature failed the people of the Free State 

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has heard how the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm project was a classic example of how the provincial legislature and its committees failed the people of the Free State.

On Monday, Roy Jankielsohn, a member of the Free State legislature, told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo when the alleged irregularities in the project took place, the committee chairperson "blocked opposition members' attempts to probe these issues".

He said when opposition members in the legislature raised the issue they were "ridiculed and insulted by the governing party" in attempts to deviate from those issues.

"This is a classic example of how the legislature and its committees have failed the people of the Free State by not allowing this issue to be interrogated," Jankielsohn added. 

25 Jul 09:57


Beneficiaries of collapsed Estina dairy farm project still sidelined, state capture inquiry hears 

A member of the Free State legislature, Roy Jankielsohn, has detailed how beneficiaries of the collapsed Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project are still being sidelined.

Jankielsohn was testifying before the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture on Monday.  

He told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo the beneficiaries' exclusion was "very strange" to him, adding government projects should benefit beneficiaries on the ground.

"Many Vrede residents are poor, there's huge unemployment and people were hoping that this project would bring some relief to at least 80 people who were identified as beneficiaries, and unfortunately, they are still sidelined. 

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