Vrede dairy project: Judgment reserved in DA bid to set aside Public Protector's report

2018-10-24 19:05
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (File photo)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (File photo) (Foto: Argief)

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The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has reserved judgment in a case which centres on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report on the controversial Vrede dairy project in the Free State, which was released earlier this year. 

The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) applied to have the report declared unconstitutional and unlawful and to have it set aside.  

After judgment was reserved on Wednesday, DA federal council chairperson James Selfe said: "We believe that the Public Protector at the moment does not fulfil her responsibilities...and for that reason she is much criticised."

"We are hoping for the order that we have asked for, being that the report is set aside as being unlawful, irrational and unconstitutional. 

"We are hoping for a costs order from the Public Protector personally...there needs to be consequences for public officials in such high positions if they don't do their jobs," Selfe said. 

He added that the DA wouldn't "criticise her if she was doing her job". 

"The fact of the matter is that millions and millions of money went missing in the Free State Department of Agriculture [and] it ended up somewhere.

"We would expect that the law enforcement agencies, in whatever form, trace that money and those who have taken it and then bring the necessary criminal or civil actions against those people." 

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but never received them.

Gifted to Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The #GuptaLeaks revealed last year that at least R30m paid to the Guptas via the farm project ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

READ: The Dubai Laundromat – How millions milked from Free State government paid for Sun City wedding

Earlier this year, Mkhwebane quietly released the report highlighting procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial project.

She recommended as remedial action that then Free State Premier Ace Magashule "initiate and institute disciplinary action against all implicated officials involved in the Vrede dairy project".

But the DA argued that when she assumed office, Mkhwebane was required to conduct a preliminary investigation into the merits of the complaint lodged by the DA's Roy Jankielsohn or refer the matter to another appropriate investigative authority.

However, earlier on Wednesday, advocate Vuyani Ngalwana, SC, who represented Mkhwebane said: "There was nothing special, with respect, or there was nothing extraordinary about this complaint."

He also told the court that the "attack" on Mkhwebane's report was politically motivated and that the DA wanted to impose its own outcome. 

Ngalwana added that the DA was "consistently being critical" of Mkhwebane as the Public Protector. 

READ: DA has 'consistently been critical' of Mkhwebane – lawyer

"This application is not about the Public Protector failing to do her job. It is about the DA trying to impose its preferred investigation on the Public Protector," Ngalwana said.

"They want to impose the issue that must be investigated, regardless of issues such as financial constraints. The DA wants to impose its own preferred outcome of the investigation."

Read more on:    da  |  gupta family  |  busisiwe mkhwebane

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