Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has dismissed claims that critical information implicating ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and former minister Mosebenzi Zwane in the Vrede dairy farm scheme was removed from the Public Protector's report by her instruction.
News24 and amaBhungane reported that a whistleblower revealed that information relating to the intended beneficiaries of the Gupta-linked scheme, which saw in excess of R250m in public funds funnelled through the farm's holding company, Estina, was removed at Mkhwebane's behest.
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Mkhwebane, the Public Protector, allegedly instructed her investigators to not use information from the #GuptaLeaks and not to make any findings in the report against any politician.
The report was released in February 2018 and made no finding against Magashule, who was Free State premier at the time of the project, or Zwane, who was Free State MEC for agriculture.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday afternoon, through the official Public Protector handle, Mkhwebane rejected these claims.
She said the claims were made by disgruntled current and former employees, some of whom were facing disciplinary action.
"The intention is to influence the mooted parliamentary process to remove me from office. I'll respond substantively in due course," Mkhwebane said.
"On #Vrede, the provisional report that was there in October 2016 has been on the website from the time these claims first surfaced to demonstrate to the public that there was never an issue (from the complaints to findings) implicating any politician.
"Accordingly, there couldn't have been any removal of information that was never there to start with. In addition, the content of the provisional report in question has never been disputed.
"It was only after the Justice Portfolio Committee requested an investigation into the role of politicians and the plight of project beneficiaries be carried out that one was launched & it is progressing well. Politicians have been interviewed & beneficiaries have given evidence," the Public Protector's office tweeted.
Meanwhile, DA MPL in the Free State, Dr Roy Jankielsohn has called for Mkhwebane to be investigated for possible perjury.
In a statement, Jankielsohn said the people of the Free State and the beneficiaries of the Estina Vrede Dairy Project can no longer rely on Mkhwebane to ensure a reliable and credible investigation into malfeasance and ensure accountability for the political architects of the project.
Earlier this week, Mkhwebane was dealt another blow as the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed her application for leave to appeal against the scathing judgment on the Estina report, News24 reported.
"This also explains Mkhebane's obsession with the outcomes of the DA's judicial review application of the initial report and the denial of her right to appeal the judgment," Jankielsohn said.
"She has now communicated her intention to appeal the judgment of her denial of her right to appeal, which is unprecedented for someone in such a position.
"This proves the distance she is willing to go and the costs she is willing to undertake not to include politicians in her report. In light of this, citing a lack of financial resources as a reason not to investigate all the DA's requests relating to this project are unfounded."
Jankielsohn added that Mkhwebane's own obsession with this case has compromised confidence in her ability to ensure either a fair investigation or an unbiased report from the Public Protector.
"We can only hope that Parliament will remove her from office and that the new appointee will release a report that contributes to justice for the people of the Free State and the beneficiaries of this project."
- Compiled by Alex Mitchley