AS IT HAPPENED | No good reason for Free State agriculture dept to deviate from procurement processes in Estina dairy farm project, #StateCaptureInquiry hears

2019-07-26 16:00

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture continues with further testimony related to the Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project in Vrede, in the Free State.


(Courtesy of SABC)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo

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Last Updated at 20:15
26 Jul 17:21
Commission is adjourned until August 12.

26 Jul 17:20
Some of the other numbers in the project costings and businesses plans show there was a complete lack of knowledge of the dairy industry says Maree.

26 Jul 17:10

26 Jul 17:07
The number of dairy producers or milk farmers is decreasing, says Maree.

26 Jul 17:01

Investigators of state capture commission have written to the high commission in India about Paras.

Zondo says the legal team should get involved with getting to speak to Paras.

26 Jul 16:36

26 Jul 16:35

Maree says he was asked to research if the dairy farm was a financially sound decision, his finding show it wasn't.

He says some of the documents were unclear and some weren't available.

26 Jul 16:24

26 Jul 16:01

Cele is thanked for his time and excused from the commission, with the reminder that he may be called back, should they require further testimony from him. 

Zondo calls for a short break before the next witness is brought to the stand. Gcabashe anticipates that the next witness' testimony could take up to two hours, and Zondo recommends that they at least use the next hour, up until 17:00, to see how far they get with his evidence. 

Proceedings adjourn for about 10 minutes.

26 Jul 15:59

26 Jul 15:51

26 Jul 15:42

Gcabashe reads from former Free State premier Ace Magashule's response to the Public Protector in the Estina matter. Gcabashe says from Cele's testimony, it seems as if even Magashule's interpretation of the procurement rules and the deviation in the Estina dairy farm project was incorrect.

26 Jul 15:37

Cele tells the commission about the Treasury team's second visit to the Free State agriculture department, says once again, requested documents were not provided.

26 Jul 15:26

'I never engaged them beyond basic pleasantries' - Ramaphosa on the Guptas

President Cyril Ramaphosa has told the state capture commission of inquiry, in a sworn affidavit, that he never engaged members of the Gupta family beyond "basic greetings, pleasantries and common courtesies".

"I have met two of the brothers on three or four occasions.

"My interactions with the Gupta brothers were at events where nothing of any consequence was discussed. I never engaged with them beyond basic greetings, pleasantries and common courtesies," Ramaphosa said in an affidavit dated July 2, 2019. 

26 Jul 15:25

Cele tells the commission that National Treasury approached the Hawks over the Free State agriculture department's involvement in the Estina dairy farm project. 

26 Jul 15:23

26 Jul 15:07

Cele, who is a former director of National Treasury, says there wasn't good reason for deviation from normal procurement processes in the Estina dairy farm project.

26 Jul 15:01

Cele is currently explaining in detail what correct and proper procurement procedures entail, and explains what a "deviation" from these processes would involve. Gcabashe is trying to establish if the Free State Department of Agriculture deviated from proper procedures in the Estina dairy farm project, with Peter Thabethe at the helm.

26 Jul 14:50

Gcabashe and Cele page through reams of documents in evidence bundles, and finally settle on the document titled: "The final report on investigation into the Vrede dairy farm project".

This is an investigation conducted by Cele and his team, and Gcabashe continues to question Cele about its contents.

26 Jul 14:39

Back to the business at hand, the next witness, Mr Dumisani Cele, takes to the stand. Cele will present evidence in relation to his interactions with the former HOD and CFO of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State.

Advocate Leah Gcabashe is leading his evidence. 

26 Jul 14:34

26 Jul 14:30

26 Jul 14:29

Zondo says that Ramaphosa is willing to appear before the commission, "if and when he is needed" to do so. Ramaphosa's affidavit will be released to the public in the meantime.

26 Jul 14:21

26 Jul 14:18

26 Jul 14:15

26 Jul 14:14

As per the president's request, Zondo will make this affidavit available to the public, so that there is no speculation.

26 Jul 14:13

Zondo announces that he had received Ramaphosa's affidavit in early July.

26 Jul 14:12

Zondo includes disclosure of any encounters or dealings with Bosasa. 

26 Jul 14:10

Zondo says some months ago, he informed President Cyril Ramaphosa that the commission would require affidavits from all previous and current Cabinet members about whether they had any encounters with the Gupta family.

26 Jul 14:08

Proceedings resume after the lunch break. Before the next witness takes the stand, Zondo delivers the announcement scheduled for 14:00 today.

26 Jul 12:57

Zondo wraps up his follow-up questions with Basson, and thanks him for taking the time to come to the commission with his evidence. 

Gcabashe says she has no further questions for Basson. 

Basson is excused from the witness stand, and Zondo calls for the lunch adjournment. 

Back at 14:00.

26 Jul 12:49

26 Jul 12:46

26 Jul 12:41

26 Jul 12:37

Basson again on the money for the Guptas and the wedding in Sun City, says those "funds definitely came from the dairy farm" in Vrede.

26 Jul 12:34

Basson tells Zondo that the people involved in siphoning money from the Vrede dairy farm project are currently sitting in Parliament, but doesn't elaborate further at this point. 

Basson tells the commission that they could either come to Vrede, or he could come to the commission again, with the information in writing and all the facts in order. Basson says these people could end up "shooting" him, so he needs to get all the facts in order.

26 Jul 12:30

Basson alleges that the money used to pay for the controversial Gupta wedding at Sun City came from the Vrede dairy farm. Basson says he can name the people who told him this, but under Zondo's advice, he will not reveal the names on this forum before first handing the information over to the commission's legal team.

26 Jul 12:25

26 Jul 12:19

26 Jul 12:14

Zondo asks Basson if he is the "main" government contractor in the area, as per another witness' testimony, saying Basson, "the richest white businessman in Vrede" and the Guptas only enriched themselves with the Vrede dairy farm project. 

Basson says he does a lot of work for many different municipalities, in fact, he just got another three-year service provider contract to carry out work for the Free State agriculture department.

Basson says he is the main contractor in the area because he has a good reputation and he owns all the correct equipment to carry out jobs. Basson says he can even afford to wait up to six months for payment, whereas other people who tender work for work "don't even have a spade to their name".

26 Jul 11:59

Gcabashe references an article from the New York Times, in which Basson was interviewed and quoted as saying that the Vrede dairy farm project was a "mess".

26 Jul 11:55

26 Jul 11:54

Basson explains how he had to drive as far out as 200km from Vrede - Middelburg, Ladysmith, Kroonstad - to find enough feed for the cattle on the farm. Basson says Prasad did not know where he sourced the cattle feed from. Basson says he invoiced Estina R1-million for the first delivery of cattle feed, and he delivered another R1-million worth of feed thereafter.

26 Jul 11:45

Gcabashe asks Basson if some of the cattle deaths could be attributed to a poisonous type of grass/plant that grew in the area, and Basson says yes, it could be a factor. Basson says the cattle are smart and know to usually avoid this type of poisonous grass, but when they are starving they have no choice but to eat it. 

Basson explains to the commission how the cattle would then need to eat charcoal to counteract the toxins in the poisonous plants.

26 Jul 11:36

Basson describes the Vrede dairy farm project as a complete "mess". Basson says the farm manager, Prasad, didn't know about farming and the farmworkers didn't even know how to use the equipment properly. "They had no idea" about farming, Basson says.

26 Jul 11:25

Basson tells the commission that he had helped to bury about 100 cattle in total, including calves, in the time since he arrived at the farm, up until the conditions improved and the cattle stopped dying.

Basson says the main reason for the cattle deaths was hunger, starvation. He says the situation was so dire, that he had about six of his trucks offloading feed to ensure that the cattle were being fed day and night, until things started getting better.

26 Jul 11:21

Back from the break, evidence leader Advocate Gcabashe continues probing Basson's evidence about the conditions at the Vrede dairy farm. 

26 Jul 10:56

The tea adjournment is called earlier than usual, so that the commission can sort out some technical issues. Back in 15 minutes.

26 Jul 10:55

Basson describes the conditions on the farm at one stage, with cattle and calves dying all over the place. Basson says Prasad asked for his help and advice, and Basson told Prasad that the cattle need to be fed properly, they were dying of starvation.

Prasad was under the impression that the grass growing on the farm was sufficient for the cows to feed on, but Basson advised him otherwise, because the grass wasn't suitable for cattle feeding. Basson says perhaps sheep could have fed on that grass, which was about 10-15cm long, but not the dairy cattle.

Basson then advised Prasad which feed to purchase, and how much, and the initial costs of that came to about R1-million.

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