The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has accused Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of deliberately altering her Vrede dairy farm report to shield officials from scrutiny.
According to Business Day, Casac filed a supplementary affidavit in the Pretoria high court last week, where it has applied to have the report reviewed and set aside, suggesting that it had seen a record of decision making. This record reportedly shows that the Public Protector's office had produced a provisional report in which officials were directly implicated, but that it was substantially altered.
"In the absence of any explanation from the public protector, Casac submits that the only possible inference, which the court should not hesitate to draw, is that she deliberately curtailed the report's findings and remedial action in an effort to protect department officials and thereby acted for an improper purpose and in bad faith," Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo reportedly said in the supplementary affidavit.
Casac reportedly said a Treasury report had come to light, which revealed that former Free State premier Ace Magashule and former MEC for agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane were directly implicated in the project, which saw millions intended for black emerging farmers siphoned off to the Gupta family.
Casac reportedly alleged that Mkhwebane altered her report to protect the officials.
The provisional report was written by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, Eyewitness News (EWN) reported. Lawson reportedly said "critical" aspects of that report were watered down.
"Furthermore, we're asking the court to order that a cost order be made against Mkhwebane in her personal capacity due to the way this investigation was conducted and the fact that she thought to conceal critical aspects of the investigation and its outcomes," he reportedly said in the affidavit.
Last month, Mkhwebane was grilled by MPs in Parliament over her work, particularly the Vrede report. However, she said she would not resign and said she was committed to her work.
The DA, the original complainant in the matter, is also taking the report on review. The party said a large amount of evidence of corruption pertaining to the project appeared to have been ignored by Mkhwebane.
Mkhwebane found in her report that there were procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial project.
The protector recommended as remedial action that Magashule should "initiate and institute disciplinary action against all implicated officials involved in the Vrede dairy project".