Free State Gupta E'tsho

Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa / Image via Flickr: South African Tourism

Free State grilled as ‘at least R50m wasted’ by Gupta-linked company

It would appear no lessons have been learned in Free State. A company linked to the Gupta-Estina debacle are spending public funds again.

Free State Gupta E'tsho

Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa / Image via Flickr: South African Tourism

The provincial government of Free State is accused of frittering away tens of millions of rand once again, just a few years after the Gupta Brothers used the administration to launder their money. It’s alleged that plans to build the Free State National Training Centre (NTC) by E’tsho are nothing more than a “white elephant”.

James Letuka is the DA’s official chairperson in Free State. His recently submitted questions for provincial MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation Limakatso Mahasa received a revealing response. Mahasa told the DA representative that “the plans had changed”, as an additional athletics track and swimming pool could soon cause their bill to surpass the R200 million-mark.

Who are E’tsho?

As well as admitting no feasibility studies had been conducted, Mahasa also let the cat out of the bag surrounding the source of the investment. Implementing agents E’tsho are in charge of the development – and they were the same people who oversaw the infamous Estina Dairy Farm project.

Estina was the front put-up by the Guptas to facilitate their fraudulent activities, where they were aided and abetted by senior ANC figures in Free State. For E’tsho to be trusted once more with the government account is a real slap in the face for anti-corruption forces across South Africa. Furthermore…

  • The intended purpose of the NTC “has changed from the initial concept”.
  • The MEC herself states that there are “no measures in place to ensure that Free State Province will benefit economically”.
  • An estimated R50 million has so far been spent on the planning, design and documentation stages of the project – But in the last two years or so, nothing has actually been constructed.

Free State: Gupta-linked company getting their hands dirty

Letuka confirmed that his party are considering referring the matter to the Public Protector’s office. He suspects that tender processes have been flouted, and Free State has been down this road too many times:

“It can never be acceptable and is contrary to proper supply-chain management prescripts that tenders are recommended to bidders purely on the basis of a company being “most responsive”. The NTC is yet another failed Free State project – it’s a ‘white elephant’ similar to the failed R106 million Ramkraal Legislature Complex Project.”

“The DA in the Free State Legislature shall consider its options with the view of potentially referring the matter to the Public Protector to ensure that the residents of the Free State benefit economically and in terms of the use of a world class sporting facility. It is high time the Free State prioritises economic development by placing the people first.”

James Letuka