Vrede Dairy Project

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The Vrede Dairy Project is a dairy project established in 2012 on Krynaauwslust farm near the town of Vrede in the Free State province in South Africa. The dairy was established as a public-private partnership with Estina, a Black Economic Empowerment company, as part of the Free State provincial government's agricultural project, Mohoma-Mobung.[1][2] Estina was given the land under a free 99 year lease.[3]

Allegations of corruption[edit]

In mid-2013, investigative journalism published in the Mail & Guardian newspaper alleged corruption, flouting of treasury rules and mismanagement, and linked the project to the Gupta family and allies of President Jacob Zuma.[4][5][6] Newspaper reports alleged that R30 million in government funds intended for the project was instead laundered through Dubai and used to pay for the 2013 wedding ceremony of Vega Gupta at Sun City, and accounted for as a business expense.[7] In January 2018, City Press claimed that only 1% of the R220 million allocated to the dairy by the Free State government was spent on actual farming, with most of it being diverted to associates of the Guptas.[8] Bank statements showed that the Free State government paid R334 million to the farm over 2 years, with the project transferring most of the money to its bank accounts in India, and only small amounts spent on the farm itself.[9]

In January 2018, the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority took control of the farm in a move against state capture, and seized R220 million that Free State Department of Agriculture under Mosebenzi Zwane had paid to the Gupta family, calling it a "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department".[3] The Hawks unit of South Africa's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) raided the offices of Ace Magashule, the Premier of the Free State, in connection with the project.[10] Charges were laid against two state officials and a number of associates of the Gupta family.[11] However, the National Prosecuting Authority provisionally dropped these charges in November 2018, citing lack of cooperation from authorities in India and the United Arab Emirates.[12][9]

In October 2018, one of the whistleblowers over corruption allegations in the project was found murdered.[13]

Public Protector report[edit]

In February 2018, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released a report finding irregularities, gross negligence and maladministration, and recommending that Magashule institute disciplinary action against implicated officials.[14] The Public Protector did not investigate alleged links between the project and the Gupta family, claiming financial and resource constraints, resulting in Mkhwebane being summoned to appear before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to explain these comments.[15] The report was criticised by the opposition Democratic Alliance as a whitewash of corruption,[16][17] and by the South African Federation of Trade Unions for exonerating the main political figures responsible for the scandal (Magashule, Zwane and the Guptas), while making a scapegoat of minor players.[18] In April, the Public Protector announced a new probe into politicians involved in the project.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Premier promises more jobs". Free State Online. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  2. ^ "2014/15 Estimates of Provincial Revenue & Expenditure: VOTE 11 – Department of Agriculture and Rural Development" (PDF). National Treasury of South Africa. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b "NPA freezes R220m, land linked to Gupta farm". News24. 20 January 2018.
  4. ^ "'Guptas' farm cash cows in Free State". amaBhungane. 31 May 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  5. ^ "'Gupta' dairy project milks Free State coffers". amaBhungane. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  6. ^ Sole, Sam; Timse, Tabelo; Brümmer, Stefaans (7 February 2014). "Free State dairy project damned in treasury investigation". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  7. ^ amaBhungane and Scorpio (30 June 2016). "#GuptaLeaks: The Dubai Laundromat – How millions milked from Free State government paid for Sun City wedding". News24.
  8. ^ Mashego, Abram (21 January 2018). "Inside the Gupta heist". City Press. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Charles (13 February 2019). "Holy cow! Bank statements reveal how Free State government paid Guptas over R330m for Estina dairy farm". Netwerk24.
  10. ^ Bateman, Barry (25 January 2018). "Hawks Raid FS Premier's Office Over Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Farm". Eyewitness News.
  11. ^ Chabalala, Jeanette (15 February 2018). "Seven Vrede dairy farm project accused released on bail".
  12. ^ "NPA provisionally drops Estina dairy case against Guptas and associates". Times Live. 28 November 2018.
  13. ^ Grobler, Riaan (23 October 2018). "Vrede dairy farm project whistleblower found murdered". News24.
  14. ^ Myburgh, Pieter-Louis (9 February 2018). "Public Protector quietly releases Vrede dairy report, finds 'gross negligence'". News24.
  15. ^ Bornman, Jan (11 February 2018). "Mkhwebane summoned to Parly for urgent meeting on Vrede report". News24.
  16. ^ Mailovich, Claudi (9 February 2018). "What the public protector's Vrede Dairy probe failed to investigate". Business Day.
  17. ^ "Mkhwebane's Vrede dairy farm probe is a whitewash: Maimane". Times Live. 9 February 2018.
  18. ^ Spies, Derrick (10 February 2018). "Public Protector's Vrede report 'an insult to intelligence of all South Africans' - SAFTU". News24.
  19. ^ Mahlati, Zintle (19 April 2018). "PP to launch new probe into politicians' role in Vrede Dairy project". IOL.