Magashule avoids questions on his role in failed Vrede dairy farm

Ace Magashule (File, Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)
Ace Magashule (File, Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

Johannesburg – ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule would not respond directly to questions on his role in the failed Vrede dairy farm, now under curatorship amid allegations that millions of rands that was allocated to the farm were allegedly diverted to the Gupta family.

Magashule faced a barrage of questions from the media on Monday relating to his role as premier in the failed Free State project that was supposed to empower small black farmers in line with the ANC's transformation policies.

READ: There is no decision that Zuma must go – Magashule

Magashule said investigations must be left to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and other law enforcement agencies.

"There is a universal principle that no one is guilty until proven otherwise."

"So let the law take its [course] in relation to the Vrede dairy farm and any other acts of corruption and unlawfulness," Magashule said.

News24 is in possession of the court order issued by the Free State High Court on Thursday that puts Krynaauws Lust farm, near Vrede, in the Free State, under curatorship of the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). 

Emerging farmers promised cows

The affidavit also reveals that Free State's agricultural department – under then MEC Mosebenzi Zwane – paid R220m to the Guptas in what the AFU calls a "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department".

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

READ: The ace up the Guptas’ sleeve

Magashule did not answer questions on whether he still stands by his previous comments defending the Guptas.

He has been quoted saying the criticism against the family was "white people making noise". 

Gifted to the Gupta-linked 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 how at least R30m paid to the Guptas via the farm ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

For all you need to know about #GuptaLeaks, click here 

Magashule also faced questions about his family's relationship with the controversial family. 

'It's never been a secret'

Magashule said it was never a secret that his son worked for the Guptas.

News24 reported in 2013 that Magashule's son, 27-year-old Tshepiso, had "borrowed" one of the Gupta family's luxury cars – a silver two-door BMW Z4 – and worked for one of the family's companies.

Tshepiso Magashule is employed by Mabengela Investments – a company belonging to the youngest Gupta brother, Tony, and President Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane. 

"My son has been working for the Guptas. It has never been a secret. When I became premier, he was working for the Guptas... but he is not involved with Vrede dairy," Magashule said.

The Gupta family has faced fierce criticism for their close relationship with senior ANC leaders including Zuma, who has defended his friendship with them.

Their relationship is expected to come under scrutiny when the commission of inquiry into state capture headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo finally gets underway.

"We are reiterating the stance of ANC that we will fight corruption wherever it rears its head," Magashule said.

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