Ace Magashule

Ace Magashule gives a press briefing on February 13, 2018 – Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

Estina: Mkhwebane tries to make amends, vows to investigate Magashule

The Public Protector has promised to renew investigations.

Ace Magashule

Ace Magashule gives a press briefing on February 13, 2018 – Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has assured South Africans that any politicians involved in the controversial Estina Dairy Farm saga will be brought to book.

This resolution comes in the wake of yet another crushing courtroom defeat, whereby Mkhwebane’s initial investigation into the state-endorsed agricultural project in the Free State was labelled as an outright failure. The Public Protector’s report failed to find any wrongdoing by politicians, despite mountains of critical evidence implicating African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General, Ace Magashule, and former minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, in the sordid scheme.

High Court says Mkhwebane failed poor and vulnerable citizens

The High Court ruled that Mkhwebane had failed the people of South Africa and had, furthermore, violated her office’s Constitutional oath. Judge Ronel Tolmay also slapped the Public Protector with a personal costs order, adding:

“In this instance the dereliction of her duty impacted on the rights of the poor and vulnerable in society, the very people, for whom her office was essentially created.”

In the wake of the damning verdict, spokesperson for the Public Protector’s office, Oupa Segalwe, announced that Mkhwebane was considering challenging the High Court’s judgement. Furthermore, Segalwe noted that a ‘new’ investigation into the Estina scheme had already been undertaken by the Public Protector’s office.

Magashule and Zwane now in the firing line

This renewed effort, Segalwe noted, would focus almost exclusively on political interference and malfeasance. Segalwe said:

“She has interviewed the former premier of the Free State Ace Magashule, she has interviewed Mosebenzi Zwane, she has interviewed a few other politicians, I think one mayor in that area of Vrede, but she has also, as a result of these interviews, found new leads which lead to politicians who’re based at national government, she’s at a process of subpoenaing those people so that they can also have their say.”

The Estina Vrede Dairy Project, which became synonymous with the scourge of State Capture, was initially formed as a state-funded project tasked with uplifting small-scale farmers in the Free State.

The R220-million allocated to the project never found its way to the intended beneficiaries and was instead alleged to have landed in the pockets of the infamous Gupta family. It’s alleged that Magashule was pivotal in redirecting funds away from the project.

In the midst of the ongoing Estina drama, Mkhwebane’s numerous judicial losses – compounded by scathing judgements of incompetence – have redoubled calls for her immediate removal from office. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has already tabled a motion before parliament, which is likely to see Mkhwebane’s fate decided in September.