DA to take Public Protector Vrede dairy farm report on review

Cape Town - The DA is taking Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report on the Vrede dairy project in the Free State on review, the party's leader Mmusi Maimane announced on Monday.

"There is no effort shown to probe the true corruption at the heart of the Vrede scam, and to hold those responsible accountable," Maimane told reporters at the DA's Cape Town offices. 

"[Free State Premier] Ace Magashule and [Former agriculture MEC] Mosebenzi Zwane get off unscathed in what was a scheme that they conceived, planned and executed - along with the Guptas - to defraud the public of hundreds of millions of rands.

"After four years, advocate Mkhwebane simply cannot blame lack of capacity for this embarrassment of a report... We were the original complainants in the Vrede matter. We have met with the public protector, and have visited the beneficiaries often to keep them posted on progress.

"We had expected some form of real justice for them, but this report has bitterly disappointed us and them. We must correct this." 

He said the party's lawyers were currently drafting papers, and the application would be launched later in the week in the North Gauteng High Court.

Maimane previously said that there was large amount of evidence of corruption and money laundering relating to the Vrede project that was already in the public domain - and that it appeared that none of that was investigated.

- Read more: Vrede report a mind-boggling whitewash - DA

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".

DA federal chair James Selfe on Monday said the remedial action was a clear conflict of interest, as Magashule was implicated in the matter. Some of the revelations in the leaked Gupta emails were also not investigated. 

"A high school student could have investigated a lot of the issues in the public domain alone... It is woefully inadequate," Selfe said.

Mkhwebane has been summoned to appear in Parliament to explain her statements in recent weeks over the Vrede Diary Farm report. She will appear on Wednesday.

Hawks raid

The report follows on the back of the recent court application by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) for a court order to freeze assets worth around R220 million, belonging to individuals who'd benefited from the ill-fated project, including members of the Gupta family and some of their associates.

Last month, the Hawks also conducted search and seizure operations at both Magashule's offices and the provincial office of the department of agriculture.

An affidavit has also revealed that Free State's agricultural department – under then MEC Mosebenzi Zwane – paid the R220m to the Guptas and some of their associates in what the AFU calls a "scheme designed to defraud and steal monies from the department".

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but they never received them.

- Read more: Where are Estina's missing cows?

Gifted to Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The #GuptaLeaks revealed last year how at least R30m paid to the Guptas via the farm ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

- Read: Inside the Gupta heist

- Read more: The Dubai laundromat: How millions milked from Free State government paid for Sun City wedding