The official handing over of the Vrede Dairy Project to the beneficiaries today is a victory for the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) nine year relentless battle to get the beneficiaries recognised and included in the project. The DA has consistently argued that no project of this nature has a reason to exist without benefits to the local community, normally through identified beneficiaries.
The recognition of the beneficiaries through the formal handing over of the project to them with certificates of ownership that are transferrable to families, brings some justice to those who are still living. Sadly, some have already passed away without experiencing the joy of being shareholders in the project. This ceremony symbolises the battle by the DA through the Free State legislature, Parliament, the Public Protector, the courts, the Zondo Commission and law enforcement agencies.
The initial contract between the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) indicates that the beneficiaries would own 51% of the project. With the Gupta’s corrupt Estina out of the way, there is no reason why they should not be 100% shareholders.
The Free State DARD have lost many years that could have been used for training of the beneficiaries for the farming operation. It remains the responsibility of the Department to ensure that the beneficiaries and their families are trained to enable the project to eventually become sustainable. Sadly, the R20 million a year allocated as operating costs over the past few years, besides the initial R360 million investment, could have been used for this purpose. Both time and money has been wasted while the DARD and politicians tried to avoid accountability and by-pass the rightful beneficiaries.
The DA will continue to monitor the progress of this project to ensure that the rights and entitlements of the beneficiaries are respected. With this first leg of the battle partially completed, the DA will now focus on ensuring justice through the criminal prosecution of the political architects of the initial money laundering scheme under the Gupta-linked Estina Company.