Former Free State premier Ace Magashule and the two former MECs for agriculture in that province, those in charge of the Vrede dairy farm project, have managed to evade accountability for the project again. According to IOL, the ANC in the Free State provincial legislature used its majority to decide that Magashule, Mosebenzi Zwane, and Mamiki Qabathe will not have to answer questions in the legislature.
This reportedly followed a meeting of the provincial joint committee on public accounts and finance, and economic development. The meeting was reportedly closed to the media, but DA leader in the Free State provincial legislature, Roy Jankielsohn said the ANC said summoning the politicians would be a waste of time.
Jankielsohn said the 80 beneficiaries of the project were once again denied justice.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleges that the Gupta family were the ultimate beneficiaries of the project, which was supposed to give support to black emerging farmers near the town of Vrede in the Free State.
In an affidavit filed as part of the NPA's attempts to freeze R10-million belonging to Atul Gupta, the acting head of the Asset Forfeiture Unit, Knorx Molelle, said the NPA believes the Gupta brother was the ultimate beneficiary of the project, Business Day reported.
The project was awarded to Estina to run – a company that the state alleges was ultimately a Gupta front. No support was ever given to the farmers.
The politicians also evaded investigation during Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's probe into the dairy project.
City Press reported that Mkhwebane allegedly watered down her report to protect Magashule and Zwane from investigation. Her final report did not include their roles in the project. The allegation was apparently made by Lawson Naidoo, the executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), in an affidavit. Mkhwebane denied watering down the report.
Mkhwebane reportedly said in Parliament that the initial complaint laid with her office in 2015 did not query the role of politicians, but that she would investigate their involvement in a new investigation.