- On Friday 65 people from communities in Vrede were named beneficiaries of the controversial Vrede Dairy farm project.
- The project started in 2012 as a partnership with Gupta-linked company Estina, and was used to funnel millions into their pockets.
- The beneficiaries have been given 51% of the farm's ownership, while the remaining percentage will be given to a strategic partner.
Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela says the infamous Vrede Dairy farm project has finally been handed over to its rightful owners, after 65 community members were named beneficiaries in the project.
On Friday, Ntombela led the handover programme at the farm.
The farm made national headlines and became a symbol of state capture after Gupta-linked company Estina funneled millions into their own pockets, using the dairy project which was supposed to be a partnership with the provincial government.
"If it was possible I was going to ululate, because I am very excited about this project... the real beneficiaries are getting what they deserve. I have checked them and discussed with them, and I have seen that most of them are the poorest of the poorest, and I have seen them crying with excitement for them to get the land," said Ntombela.
News24 previously reported that Estina was identified in early 2012 as the company that would partner with the Free State government in the dairy farm project.
At the time, the plan was for Estina and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to inject a R500-million investment into the project.
In August 2014, the Estina contract was cancelled, but between December 2014 and May 2016, Estina received further payments totalling R130 million, News24 reported.
Several people, including former agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, are currently facing money laundering related charges that stem from the matter.
As part of the project, black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of an empowerment scheme.
Following a court order, 65 beneficiaries made up of community members have been given 51% of the farm's ownership. The remaining percentage will be given to a strategic partner which is yet to be identified.
Ntombela said that they would be calling on bids for the partner.
"We are going to advertise and make sure that those who are interested must apply, but we must be sure that they are people who have skills, who understand farming and who are able to assist the other beneficiaries.
Ntombela added that they had vetted beneficiaries to make sure there was no fraud.
"When we do interviews, we are going to make sure that when we do interviews, we get real people that will assist these beneficiaries to make sure that this project becomes stronger than even before," she said
"We had 85 beneficiaries before, and now there are 65 because we went through each and every person and checked their IDs, and we discovered that some were teachers and some were working in municipalities and some were ex-councillors, so we dropped them. All of the beneficiaries left are the poorest of the poor. Some are from farms others worked on farms and they know farming so they know what they are doing," she said.
The Free State Department of Agriculture has invested more than R200 million in the farm.
The beneficiaries will be working on 222 hectares of land with 10 tractors, and nine horses which will be used for patrolling the property.
"From where I am standing, all 65 beneficiaries are owners and are no longer beneficiaries. They are instant millionaires, if you look at the magnitude of the investment, when you look at the project. So they own this land, the farm animals and equipment," Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Thembeni Nxangisa.
He said farm land would also be used to grow produce and expand.
"At the moment, they produce and sell milk in town, but they are now going to pasteurise the milk because they don't make enough money by selling raw milk."
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