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Gupta ruling confirms FF Plus standpoint on Vrede Dairy Project

The FF Plus welcomes the preservation order that was granted in the Free State High Court against the Gupta-company Estina (Pty) Ltd, as it confirms the party’s view that the Free State Department of Agriculture and other role players have been conniving behind the scenes at the Vrede Dairy Project, says Wouter Wessels, FF Plus MP and spokesperson for agricultural affairs.

“The officials and politicians involved, like Premier Ace Magashule and Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, must be held personally accountable for the apparent criminality related to the project.

“In 2017, the FF Plus already raised strong objections because of the Department’s failure to table their annual reports for the 2014/15 and 2016/17 financial years.

“It was a clear indication that the Department was trying to hide something and now the judge has proven us right. The FF Plus continues to insist on a forensic audit of all transfers made by the Department to implementation agents, like Estina.

According to Judge Fouché Jordaan, the appointment of Estina was riddled with irregularities and did not comply with the provisions set out in Section 217 of the Constitution and therefore it is null and void. In addition, the company has no agricultural experience and there is no credible explanation or justification for why such a company was appointed without following the necessary legal steps.

“The FF Plus’s greatest objection related to the payment of nearly R300 million that the Free State Department of Agriculture made to so-called implementation agents, like Estina, to apparently fund, manage and support agricultural development projects. The money was paid out left and right without it being properly recorded. Assets were procured and payments were made, but there are no proper financial records for the said transactions. That is how the payments were made to various Gupta-linked companies and reportedly also how the controversial Gupta wedding at Sun City was paid for in 2013.

“Mosebenzi Zwane, Minister of Mineral Resources and former MEC of the Department, was directly involved with the Vrede Dairy Project and he decided on the land where the project was to be set up. He also travelled to India to apparently learn more about milk production. He was accompanied by an advisor of the Free State Premier, Ace Magashule, and other employees of the Department. When he appeared before the Parliamentary Committee of Mineral Resources in October last year in relation to state capture, Zwane tried to defend the project.

“It is unacceptable that agricultural development projects are being exploited for the unjust enrichment of corrupt politicians and their friends. The community that was supposed to benefit from the Vrede Dairy Project is suffering right next to the farm, because it has been milked dry by irregularities and self-enrichment.

“Every single unproductive agricultural project that results in barren agricultural land, like this one that cost the tax payer nearly R570 million, has a detrimental impact on food security. Our agricultural sector is bleeding out and is under immense pressure.

“The FF Plus demands that the Public Protector’s (PP) report on the Vrede Dairy Project be made available and undertakes to tackle the issue on all levels until all the guilty parties have been called to account,” says Wessels.

Contact details: 082 674 6670

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