Vrede Dairy Farm: ANC corruption being protected by the Public Protector
18 June 2018
The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s Answering Affidavit to the DA’s legal challenge to her Vrede Dairy Farm report is an embarrassing cop-out as it attempts to explain the failure to hold to account the political principals who designed and orchestrated this R220 milion Gupta-linked scandal. It appears from this 79-page affidavit that she is hellbent on protecting ANC corruption, showing she is unfit to hold the Office of the Public Protector.
In the Answering Affidavit, Mkhwebane blames her predecessor, Adv Thuli Madonsela; her office’s current lack of budget; and the limits of her official mandate and jurisdiction as excuses for her report ignoring the roles played by Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane. The DA’s initial complaint contained a submission that the project originated in the Office of then Premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, and then MEC for Agriculture, Mosebenzi Zwane – and therefore these political actors ought to be investigated.
It is highly suspicious that after an almost four-year investigation into the Vrede Dairy Project, Adv. Mkhwebane found only that the Free State Department of Agriculture contravened the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). There is no effort shown to probe the true corruption at the heart of the Vrede scam, and to hold those responsible to account.
Furthermore, the affidavit claims that the media reports implicating Magashule and Zwane with the Guptas preceded her appointment, or came to light after the investigation was already completed. This argument is flawed, as the position of Public Protector is cited as respondent and not the individual personally, on her own version. Accordingly, such considerations are immaterial, as the position of Public Protector was filled at all times and remains responsible, regardless of the person who was in that position.
As the reports stands, Ace Magashule and 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. The remedial action recommended in the report proposes to discipline the implicated officials but she makes no recommendations whatsoever on the action to be taken against the political principals - one of which is now the Secretary-General of the ANC.
When I accompanied the intended beneficiaries of this project to a meeting with the Public Protector at her offices in December last year, she promised to act in good faith and to conduct a comprehensive investigation. It appears that this promise has been reneged on.
The intended beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Farm project deserve nothing less than full political accountability and swift criminal prosecutions of the corrupt thieves behind this project. The Public Protector’s report does not come close to offering this.
That is why the DA has taken the report on legal review, and the matter is set to be heard on 23 and 24 October 2018. We have full confidence in the courts to come to a finding that brings justice to the people of Vrede.
Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 18 June 2018