Ace Magashule ANC Suspended

Former FS Premier and current ANC SG Ace Magashule. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

Magashule failed to ensure accountability, says PP in second Vrede dairy project report

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said that although Magashule denied involvement in the project under oath, the evidence proved that he was indeed involved.

Ace Magashule ANC Suspended

Former FS Premier and current ANC SG Ace Magashule. Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP

Former Free State Premier Ace Magashule failed to execute his oversight responsibilities in the failed Vrede dairy farm project, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found.

Releasing her findings Monday, Mkhwebane said the aim of her investigation was to look at two main issues: whether there was political involvement in the project by the Free State government; and whether such involvement amounted to improper conduct or maladministration

It appears, however, that Magashule and then agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane got off lightly for their involvement in the now-infamous Vrede dairy project, even after the pair were found to be central to the scheme from which money intended for black emerging farmers flowed to a Gupta-run company named Estina.

The Public protector failed to sanction Magashule, while ordering Zwane to write a letter of apology, Business Day reported.

Former human settlements director-general Elizabeth Rockman, social development MEC Mamiki Qabathe and former agriculture department head Peter Thabethe are also implicated in Mkhwebane’s report.

Questionable conduct

“I therefore find that Magashule, Zwane, Qabathe and Rockman failed to execute their oversight responsibilities entrusted to them in terms of sections 125, 133, 136 and 195 of the Constitution, even after they received the National Treasury Accountant-General’s (NTAG) report which was notifying the provincial government of improprieties relating to the Vrede dairy project,” Mkhwebane said.

“Their conduct therefore amounted to maladministration and improper conduct in terms of section 6(4) of the Public Protector Act.”

The Public Protector also found that there was political involvement in the project; detailing various engagements between Magashule’s office, officials and the province’s executive council (ExCo).

“It is therefore difficult to believe that the officials did not provide the Premier with regular status reports on the project.”

Ace was in the race

She added that although Magashule denied under oath involvement in the project, the evidence proved that he was indeed involved.

“From the evidence in my possession, Magashule appointed Mr Narayan as a special advisor in the Premier’s office a day after he had approved a special memorandum that Mr Narayan would undertake a trip to India with Mr Thabethe for the purposes of the Vrede dairy farm at state expense.”

Mkhwebane said as part of her remedial action recommendations, the report has been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA), which, she added, is already conducting an investigation on the matter.

Magashule, who is currently ANC Secretary-General, and Zwane, currently an ANC MP and chairman of Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport, have not yet publicly reacted to the report.

Magashule faces separate charges of corruption relating to a R255 million asbestos audit contract in the Free State awarded during his term as Premier.