Mosebenzi Zwane hijacked council meeting to present Vrede dairy farm proposal, state capture inquiry hears

Former Free State Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane. (Pic: Gallo Images)
Former Free State Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane. (Pic: Gallo Images)

Former Free State Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane hijacked a council meeting in the Phumelela municipality to present a proposal on the Vrede dairy farm project, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Thursday.

"It was supposed to be an ordinary council meeting in the morning the then MEC, Zwane, came with his crew from the department where they asked us to delay the council for two hours so that they can present us with a proposal from the department to use the land for agricultural purposes," former DA councillor Doctor Radebe said.

LIVE | Former Vrede councillor was attacked by 'Zwane's private force' after reporting mismanagement at dairy farm, #StateCaptureInquiry hears

Radebe was referring to a council meeting on June 19, 2012.

The commission has focused its attention of the controversial Estina dairy farm project in Vrede in the Free State. One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the 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: I didn't sign off on Estina dairy farm project, former govt dept head tells Zondo commission

Radebe recalled that the presentation was given orally by the head of the department at the time, a Peter Thabethe.

"Peter Thabethe did the presentation. There were other officials, but I cannot recall their names.

"Mr Zwane first spoke and told us that they had earmarked Vrede to establish a dairy farm where there will be a milk processing plant. They were asking for permission from the municipality to lease the land. Thabethe never gave us written documents. He was doing it orally," Radebe explained.

Zwane and his entourage did not follow proper procedures when they halted the ordinary sitting of the council, the commission heard.

"In terms of the procedure, they should have written a letter to the municipality so that the speaker and the municipal manager could put the item on record," he said.

'Nothing but a scam'

The former DA councillor, who claims to possess a wealth of agriculture knowledge, said he could see that this was "nothing but a scam".

"I was the only person who was clued up on agriculture because I have been farming since 2003. The council was excited because of the figures that were mentioned but you could see this looked like a scam because they came with no business plan etc. It looked like a dream.

"I asked them how are they going to identify the beneficiaries and the criteria was not clear," Radebe explained.

The council comprised 12 ANC councillors and 3 DA councillors who later resolved to lease the land.

"The department did then lease it to the 'Estina dairy scam' 99-years rent free. I have never seen any payment into the municipality for this project," he said.

The inquiry continues.

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