Public Protector (PP) Busisiwe Mkhwebane has now ’’exhausted all avenues to delay holding senior politicians involved in the controversial Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project to account, and is now required to finalise the report’’.
This was stated on Friday by Roy Jankielsohn MPL, leader of the official opposition in the Free State legislature after the Constitutional Court’s order to dismiss her Vrede Dairy Project appeal with costs.
The order follows the PP’s application on 8 July to the Constitutional Court to overturn the Supreme Court of Appeal’s denial of her application to appeal the outcome of the High Court judgment.
“’The tactics of constant denials by the political architects of the Vrede Dairy Project have until now been assisted by the PP’s tactics of legal delays,’’ said Jankielsohn.
The agreement between Estina and the Free State government was initiated, crafted and signed in the office of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, now ANC secretary-general, who has been called to appear before the Integrity Commission, under false pretexts, he added.
In her judgment, Judge Tolmay, citing a previous ruling of the court, indicated further that “the Public Protector must not only discover the truth, but must also inspire confidence that the truth has been discovered”.
Jankielsohn said: ’’The truth regarding the Vrede Dairy Project cannot ignore the crucial role of various senior politicians in the Free State province who for questionable reasons sacrificed the hopes and aspirations for a better life of 80 impoverished beneficiaries.“
The following timeline indicates how the PP has abused the courts to deny justice to the 80 impoverished beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Project, and delay accountability for the politicians who were involved in the channelling of money to the Gupta family who are central to allegations of state capture:
- After the release of a blatantly inadequate report regarding requests between 2013 and 2016 by the DA for investigations into the Vrede Dairy Project, the DA took this under judicial review in the High Court. On 20 May 2019, Judge Tolmay of the Gauteng High Court declared the PP’s initial Vrede Dairy Project investigation report be “set aside and declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid”.
- The PP then attempted to obtain permission to appeal this judgment which was denied by the High Court on 15 December 2019.
- An application to appeal the decision of the High Court was subsequently also dismissed by Justices Wallis and Schippers of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 21 June 2020 with the reasons that there was “no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.
- In a deliberate attempt to delay the release of a report, she has now submitted an appeal application to the Constitutional Court on 3 July 2020.
- On 26 August 2020, the Constitutional Court dismissed the PP’s application to appeal the High Court judgment with costs, on the grounds that “it bears no reasonable prospects of success”.
The involvement of politicians that the PP is delaying adjudicating on is clear when the following are taken into account, Jankielsohn said.
- The Free State government under Magashule continued to appropriate funds to this project in spite of a National Treasury Report that exposed financial maladministration and the withdrawal of funding by the National Department of Agriculture for this same reason.
- The premier and various MEC’s ignored the National Treasury Report recommendation that indicated that disciplinary action should be taken against the former head of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
- The former MEC for Agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane was an architect of this project and allegedly attempted to cover up the alleged allocation of R30 million from the project to the Gupta wedding at Sun City and the illegal landing of an aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base bringing guests to the same wedding.
- After cancelling the contract between Estina and the Provincial Government on 12 August 2014, a further R106 million was paid to Estina in subsequent financial years.
- Former premier Magashule admitted that a guest house was bought with government funds and transferred into the name of Estina’s manager on the project.
- The former premier and MECs were aware of malfeasance at the project and not only ignored this, but failed to report it to the necessary law enforcement agencies for investigation which is itself a criminal offence.
- After extensive references to beneficiaries in the Free State legislature by various MECs, they were never included in this project which eliminated the very reason for its existence as a legitimate agricultural project.
- During the review court case, the PP cited a lack of resources to carry out the necessary investigations as reasons why the initial investigation was not able to address all the issues.
’’The DA now encourages the PP to finalise the Vrede Dairy Project report with the same vigour and haste that was shown to seek legal recourse. It is time for the PP to demonstrate critical thinking and restore faith in the state institution,’’ Jankielsohn said.
’’The DA remains committed towards ensuring that justice prevails for the beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Project, and want to see the political architects involved held accountable for their involvement in the project.’’