DA calls on Batohi to reinstate Estina dairy farm charges

The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)
The Estina dairy farm in Vrede. (Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

The DA in the Free State has called on NPA head Shamila Batohi to reinstate corruption charges relating to the Estina dairy farm project.

The call comes hot on the heels of revelations by Netwerk24 that the Free State government paid more than R330m to Indian company Estina between July 2014 and April 2016.

The company was meant to plough the same amount of money back into the scheme, which was situated in the agricultural town of Vrede. 

READ: More than R330m in less than 2 years massive extent of Gupta plundering at Estina revealed

But bank statements revealed that that never happened. Instead, the money was paid into the company's Bank of Baroda account in India.

Charges against those who were implicated in the failed project were dropped at the Free State High Court last year.

Now the DA's premier candidate in the Free State, Patricia Kopane, says the party hopes that the new NPA boss will prove her "independence and transparency" by reinstating the charges of contravening the Public Finance Management, Companies and sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime acts.

"The Free State Department of Agriculture was conveniently used as a cash cow for the benefit of the Gupta family while the would-be beneficiaries, in particular, black emerging farmers, were left to languish in poverty.

"This is an indictment on the failing ANC government whose uncaring, criminal conduct has undermined land reform and only seeks to make South Africans permanent tenants on their land," said Kopane.

Justice

At the time the charges were dropped, the NPA said it had insufficient evidence to prosecute. But Kopane said the new evidence presented them with a chance to seek justice for the beneficiaries of the failed project.

"We trust the NPA will bring justice to the Vrede beneficiaries who have been robbed of their right to own land and produce in it by the very government that should have protected and provided for them."

She added that the situation was a clear indication that amending Section 25 of the Constitution would be "disastrous and the most vulnerable in society would be hardest hit".

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