Vrede Dairy Project back in the spotlight – DA writes to Public Protector

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the comments made by Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, indicating that the Vrede Dairy Farm investigation is in its final stages.

The DA have for long driven the issue surrounding the controversial Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Farm Project in the Free State.

The first report by the Public Protector was set aside after successful court action by the DA, as was her appeal.

The DA now awaits the Public Protector’s second attempt at findings in this regard.

Despite the Public Protector’s ongoing investigation into alleged corruption involving the Vrede Dairy Farm project, the DA have written to Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane to seek clarity in terms of section 34 of Chapter 7 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act No 12 of 2004 (PACCA), regarding the role of former Premier of the Free State, Mr Ace Magashule and the then former MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Ms Mamiki Qabathe in several payments which were made by the Free State provincial government to a company called Estina. This Act criminalises the failure to report alleged corruption by individuals in authority.

A report received in 2013 from National Treasury into an investigation of the Vrede Dairy project indicated that “ultimately the project should be reassessed and the necessary due diligence should be completed to ensure that the project is viable. In its current form the project is not likely to yield a value for money to the State”. This should have raised serious questions on the part of the Premier of the Free State as well as the former MECs for Finance and DARD. Former Premier Magashule admitted receiving the national Treasury Report as early as 16 April 2014.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the contract between the Free State provincial government and Estina was cancelled on 12 August 2014, MECs from the DARD and the former MEC for Finance, Ms Elzabe Rockman, continued to allocate provincial funding to the project. This supports allegations of their complicity in the controversial project.

The cancellation of the agreement by the Executive Committee under Premier Ace Magashule without penalties and with the knowledge that Estina did not meet its commitments further makes them complicit in aiding and abetting Estina and their partners to escape the consequences of the irregular and illegal activities.

Due to the fact that Mr Ace Magashule and Ms Mamiki Qabathe ought to have been aware of these payments which were made after the cancellation of the agreement, they also had a duty in terms of section 34 of PACCA to report these irregularities to the South African Police Services.

With this in mind, the DA have approached the Public Protector seeking clarity regarding the interpretation of the aforesaid section and to make a finding regarding the political heads who sanctioned these irregular payments and failed to report the alleged corruption.

The DA wants to see politicians held accountable for their scandalous dealings in the Vrede Dairy Farm project, who have taken food out of the mouths of the project’s beneficiaries.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA submits 7000 pages of supplementary evidence to strengthen our case against Public Protector

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite in English. The photo can be downloaded here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today submitted over 7000 pages of supplementary evidence to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to strengthen our motion for the removal of Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

With over 7000 pages to support our motion, the DA hopes that Parliament will act swiftly by establishing an Ad Hoc Committee for Mkhwebane’s removal proceedings. There has been mounting evidence and continuous blunders to support our calls for Mkhwebane’s removal since the submission of our motion.

Some of her notable blunders include:

  • The Constitutional Court found that she acted in bad faith and was not honest with the High Court regarding her investigation process in the Reserve Bank matter.
  • She jumped to the defense of former President Jacob Zuma by laying criminal charges against former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, for releasing the transcript of her interview with him.
  • In late 2019, the North Gauteng High Court dismissed her appeal to overturn Judge Ronel Tolmay’s scathing judgment lamenting her handling of the Estina Dairy Farm matter and the report thereof.
  • She was also recently reported to have celebrated her 50th birthday party with individuals involved in state capture – she chose to spend an evening sipping champagne with the very people she should be investigating.

Throughout her tenure as Public Protector, Mkhwebane has time and again demonstrated an inability to conduct her work independently, and has illustrated a poor understanding of both the law, as well as of her mandate as Public Protector. Worse still, Mkhwebane’s actions have caused immeasurable damage to the reputation of the Office of the Public Protector.

In her almost three years in office, Mkhwebane has successfully tarnished the credibility, authority and independence of the Office of the Public Protector.

The DA hopes that the disgraceful chapter that was Mkhwebane’s rule at the helm of a once-proud Chapter 9 institution will soon come to an end, and that we can begin the work to build a strong and capable Public Protector’s office that upholds the rule of law and protects South Africans from state abuses. The DA will not rest till South Africans are given the Public Protector they deserve.

PP parties with rogues she’s supposed to be investigating

Yesterday the media reported that the current Public Protector (PP), Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has had a birthday bash celebrating her 50th birthday. While this in itself is of no general interest, some of the guests who attended the party most certainly are.

Her number one fan, Dali Mpofu was there, along with the dubious Bongani Bongo. Bongo spent a large part of his tenure in the fifth Parliament trying to outdo his ANC colleagues on the Justice Portfolio Committee in seeing who could treat the previous PP with the most discourteous contempt. He then eagerly competed for the post of Praise Singer in Chief of the current PP, particularly during his whirlwind stint as Minister of State Security, during which, rumour has it, he spent more time in her office than in his own.

If these reports are accurate, also in attendance was Mosebenzi Zwane, he of Estina Dairy Project infamy.

Zwane’s huge and unmistakeable role in the criminal enterprise that was Estina was conspicuously absent in the first and very questionable report of this PP, later emerging via a whistleblower’s report to the Speaker of Parliament, that this PP, now so cosily socializing with Zwane, instructed the investigator to remove evidence implicating Zwane and Ace Magashule.

In August last year, the PP announced that her office had undertaken a new investigation into Estina, where politicians would be held to account. This investigation, the results of which have yet to be shared, must of necessity include the machinations of Zwane.

Yet he reportedly shamelessly cavorts at the birthday celebrations of the person who is investigating him.

The staggering impropriety thereof aside, this PP, despite a cacophony of views to the contrary, insists that she has both read the Constitution and understands her mandate, and is fit and proper to hold office.

If she is unable to appreciate this rather glaring conflict, and the underlying erosion of independence that accompanies it, then we beg to differ.

DA welcomes news that Mkhwebane’s disgraceful tenure as Public Protector may soon end

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes today’s announcement by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, that she has accepted the DA’s motion on the Public Protector’s removal.

We have long held that Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is not a fit and proper person to hold the office of Public Protector, and that she must be removed from her position.

Last year, the rules committee of the National Assembly adopted a set of rules that guide the process by which Parliament must deal with the removal of heads of Chapter 9 institutions, a task that it is empowered to do by section 194 of the Constitution.

In terms of the new rules, the process must start with a substantive motion in the National Assembly, after which the Speaker must forward the motion and its supporting documentation to an independent panel to assess if there are grounds for setting up a special section 194 committee to consider the removal of the person in question.

The Speaker has already written to parties to nominate persons to sit on the independent panel, and we are therefore encouraged that the process will move ahead with appropriate urgency.

The DA opposed the appointment of Advocate Mkhwebane from the beginning, and her three-year tenure to date has proved that we were correct in arguing that she is not a fit and proper person to occupy the office of Public Protector.

We hope that the disgraceful chapter that was Mkhwebane’s rule at the helm of a once-proud Chapter 9 institution will soon come to an end, and that we can begin the work anew to build a strong a capable Public Protector’s office that upholds the rule of law and protect South Africans from state abuses.

DA requests fresh Public Protector removal proceedings, following Parliament’s adoption of rules

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that removal proceedings against the incumbent Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane be instituted following Parliament’s adoption of a set of rules for the removal of a Head of a Chapter 9 Institution in terms of Section 194 of the Constitution. 

In August, the DA submitted draft rules to the Speaker in order to assist Parliament in setting up proper processes for the removal of a Head of a Chapter 9 Institution, such as the Public Protector. We are pleased by the rules which have been adopted by Parliament and have since requested that Parliament initiate fresh proceedings in accordance with Section 194(1) of the Constitution to remove Mkhwebane as soon as the Second Session of the Sixth Parliament commences.  

The DA from the onset opposed the appointment of Mkhwebane as Public Protector and we consider her removal a matter of great urgency.

She has time and again proven that she is unfit to hold office, has consistently demonstrated an inability to conduct her work independently and has illustrated a poor understanding both of the law as well as of her mandate as Public Protector. Worse, Mkhwebane’s actions have caused immeasurable damage to the once respected reputation of the Office of the Public Protector.

Despite her claims to the contrary, Section 194 of the Constitution is quite clear that Parliament is the correct body to consider and decide upon the removal of the Public Protector. Section 194(3) states that the President must remove a person from office upon the adoption by the Assembly of a resolution calling for that person’s removal.

With the adoption of the removal proceedings rules this week, we are one step closer in removing Busisiwe Mkhwebane from office and replacing her with a capable and independent Public Protector.

Public Protector’s Vrede Report: Ace Magashule and Mosebenzi Zwane must face prosecution

Today’s decision by the North Gauteng High Court to set aside Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into the Vrede Dairy Project is a victory in the fight against corruption, and we are now one step closer in seeking justice for the more than 100 intended beneficiaries of this sham empowerment scheme.

When I met with these intended beneficiaries in Vrede almost two years ago, I undertook to fight this matter on all fronts. The DA laid the initial complaint with the Public Protector, and following the release of her report we held the view that the report was a “whitewash” as it failed to hold to account those responsible for the theft of almost R200 million of public money. Today, the North Gauteng High Court has vindicated our view, as it held this report to be unconstitutional and invalid.

Instead of empowering those who are left out of the economy, over 100 black South Africans were used as a front for a calculated scheme of grand corruption and money laundering to benefit the Guptas and their friends in the ANC. Between the Guptas and the ANC, economic opportunity was stolen from black South Africans. This is a crime of the most reprehensible nature, and those responsible must face the full might of the law.

In July 2017, the DA laid criminal charges against those implicated in this act of corruption. These charges include money laundering, racketeering, assisting another to benefit from the proceeds of unlawful activities, and acquiring, possessing or using the proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act 121 of 1998. A month later I hand delivered a legal indictment containing over 200 pages of prima facie evidence of these crimes to the Hawks.

I will now urgently seek an update from National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Adv Shamila Batohi, as to progress on this investigation. It is high time that the criminal justice system does its job. It’s been almost one and a half years since Cyril Ramaphosa became President and vowed to fight corruption. Yet today, not a single person implicated in corruption has been held accountable and put behind bars. Instead, the chief architects of corruption – like Ace Magashule, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane and Mosebenzi Zwane – remain in charge and occupy ANC benches in Parliament.

We believe that this is a clear-cut example of money laundering and corruption. The charges have been laid, the evidence is clear and overwhelming, and now all that’s left to do is move forward with prosecution. It is unacceptable that the perpetrators of this crime have yet to be charged, and as such, this indictment serves to speed up the wheels of justice to ensure that those who stole the people’s money are prosecuted, and if found guilty by a court of law – are put behind bars.

The Public Protector seems hellbent on wasting precious funds on spurious litigation. In fact, a disproportionate amount of Adv Mkhwebane’s budget has been wasted on unsuccessful litigation when this money ought to be spent on protecting the interests the people of South Africa and holding the powerful to account. We urge her to accept this judgment and to go back to the drawing board. Her job is to protect the public, which includes the over 100 victims of the Vrede Dairy Project.

Later this week the 6th Democratic Parliament of South Africa will be sworn in. The DA – as the official opposition – will work harder than ever before to hold government to account, and to expose corruption wherever it rears its ugly head.

DA rejects Public Protector report exonerating NDZ VIP protection

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report exonerating Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s VIP protection in 2017, despite the fact that she held no official position that would justify such protection.

In April 2017, the DA referred what can only be described as an abuse of state resources to the Public Protector. The report reads that Mkhwebane “could not find any reason to conclude that Dr Dlamini-Zuma was improperly accorded VIP Protection Services by the Minister of Police”.

The DA maintains that the decision to award Dlamini-Zuma VIP protection was a political decision in the run up to the ANC’s elective conference in December 2017, by a Police Minister who had every reason to be in Dlamini-Zuma’s favour.

It now appears that the ANC has influence over the office of the Public Protector. It is unconscionable that the Mkhwebane can in anyway exonerate this wasteful spending of tax-payers money.

Whilst our communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of brutal, violent crime, the ANC government is spending R1.5 billion on VIP protection for politicians.

The DA is the only party that can build one South Africa for All, where all South Africans are afforded a safe environment by an honest and professional police service.

Mandela Funeral Scandal: Failing ANC will even steal in Mandela’s name

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the judgement by the Eastern Cape High Court to dismiss an application to set aside findings by the Public Protector, Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, regarding the R330 million Nelson Mandela Funeral Scandal.

The court on Thursday, 8 March 2019, dismissed an application by provincial government Director-General, Ms. Marion Mbina-Mthembu, to have findings regarding the looting of state funds for the funeral and memorial service of former PresNelson Mandela set aside.

The Mandela Funeral Report by the Public Protector investigates allegations of the misappropriation of public funds to the value of R330 million and improper conduct and maladministration, by among others, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government.

In December 2017 the DA laid criminal charges against Mbina-Mthembu and other implicated officials at the East London Police Station and will now be seeking an update on the investigation.

During Ms Mbina-Mthembu’s tenure as Head of the Provincial Treasury she violated the Constitution, Treasury Regulations as well as the Public Finance Management Finance Act (PFMA) by authorising decisions that are described as “irrational” and “unlawful”.

The Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities empowers the SAPS to investigate the most severe forms of corruption and it must do so.

A DA government will fight corruption and anyone found guilty of corruption will be sentenced to 15 years in jail.

The DA’s plan to fight corruption is simple:

  • Establishing an independent unit dedicated to identifying, fighting and prosecuting corruption.
  • Ensuring the payment of all public money is transparent.
  • Bringing in direct elections for all political office holders so that the South African people can hold their president, premiers and mayors directly accountable.
  • Implementing regular lifestyle audits for all politicians and government officials.
  • Protecting and encouraging ‘whistleblowers’ who identify and report on corrupt activities.

The actions of the ANC Government in the Eastern Cape shows that the ANC will steal at any cost, even if it undermines Mandela’s name and legacy.

Only a DA government can build One South Africa for All.

DA to lay criminal charges against the PRASA Board following leaked AG report detailing leadership and financial crisis

The following remarks were delivered by DA Shadow Minister of Transport, Manny de Freitas MP and DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP, at a press conference in Cape Town today. The draft Auditor-General report can be accessed here.

Cities and economies flourish when well-functioning public transportation systems are in place with rail being the backbone of such a system. A reliable and safe commuter rail is crucial to ensuring that people can get to work on time, to allow people to look for jobs and so that residents can access various services and amenities. With the rising cost of living, rail is now the most affordable way to travel.

However, through years of systematic corruption and mismanagement, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which is responsible for delivering passenger rail services, has our rail system on its knees.

The DA has travelled the country to investigate the current conditions on our railways on our #RailSafety tour that included visits to the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN. Across the board, South Africans are fed up with the current dangerous conditions they are forced to endure by the failing ANC government.

Every day, commuters are forced to deal with chronic and lengthy delays due to ailing infrastructure and vandalism. Just this morning we have seen reports of yet another train set on fire here in Cape Town. This is the seventh train fire in the city in the last few months alone.

Commuters are also unsafe due to a severe lack of safety officials and police to patrol train stations. This allows crime and vandalism to thrive, further compromising the safety of commuters and the stability of the system.

PRASA has been without a full-time Board for more than a year since the end of July 2017, and as the entity lurches from one crisis to another, the response from PRASA and the successive Transport Ministers has been the continued cover up corruption.

A laundry list of serious allegations was laid bare in the then Public Protector’s 2015 “Derailed Report” that described how top officials at PRASA handed out contracts to friends and allies. The real cause of the breakdown of PRASA has been systematic looting, seemingly to pay out ANC cronies.

The Public Protector’s report instructed the National Treasury to investigate these findings. These reports were finalised in December 2016 and were eventually leaked to the public last year.

However, 3 years since the Derailed Report, and after billions have been stolen from the entity, no one has been charged or arrested. In the light the lack of political will by the ANC to ensure accountability for those who have brought PRASA to its knees, the DA laid charges against those implicated.

Leaked Auditor General report on PRASA reveals the total institutional breakdown

One of the key instruments of accountability and transparency is the yearly Annual Report that all entities must provide to Parliament by 30 September each year, as required by the Public Finance Management Act of 1999. This document includes the Auditor General’s Recommendation on the financial affairs of a public entity.

PRASA has not yet submitted last year’s 2016/17 Annual Report which is now 318 Days overdue.

It is now in the public interest to reveal what is contained in this report. The main findings of the report in the DA’s possession are as follows:

Financial viability is in question as the entity has incurred massive losses

The report reveals that PRASA is on the verge of financial collapse that is directly linked to massive losses last year. The report states that “The entity and group have incurred a loss of R1,7 billion and R1,3 billion respectively for the year ended 31 March 2017.” This resulted in a “the accumulated loss as at 31 March 2017 is R4,4 billion for the entity and R4,5 billion at the group level.

The AG comments that “The declining financial performance is further evident in the cash outflows from operations of R2,3 billion and R2,4 billion for entity and group respectively” and “It is further noted that there was no disclosure in the annual financial statements highlighting the financial sustainability challenges faced by the entity and group.”

PRASA systems are inadequate to identify irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure

The AG’s report indicates that “During the duration of the audit and prior to submission of the annual financial statements a number of findings identifying irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure were identified”.

The AG comments that “As the entity is currently undergoing a number of investigations relating to supply chain management matters and as confirmed by the Acting Group CFO and Acting  Group CEO on 4 December 2017, the PRASA group did not have an adequate system for identifying and disclosing all irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, there were no satisfactory alternative procedures that I could perform to obtain reasonable assurance that all irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure had been properly recorded in notes 41 and 42 to the separate and consolidated financial statements”.

PRASA leadership has clearly learned nothing from the “Derailed Report” with irregularities able to continue due to lack of systems of accountability and transparency. There appears to be little or no political will to address this matter.

Tender irregularities continue: tenders do not comply with respective laws and regulations, are not transparent.

The AG took a sample of tenders from PRASA in the financial year 2016/7 which revealed critical issues of the 36 tenders analysed by the AG:

  • All had irregularities related to the method of selection of a service provider and all the tenders had questionable bid processes.
  • In 92% of the cases, internal processes or regulations, as well as relative regulation, law or legislation, were not adhered to.
  • In 33% of the cases, tender requirements were ignored and in 39% of the cases, tender amounts exceeded permissible amounts.
  • In five tenders, the highest scoring bidder did not receive the tender and in five cases, service providers were appointed without contracts.
  • In two cases, the incorrect service providers were appointed.

There are discrepancies between information supplied and information obtained by the AG. The AG noted the lack of consequence management for persons who are liable for irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred. This sample and the lack of consequence management speaks to serious mismanagement and continued misappropriation of funds at the entity.

Major issues with remuneration of PRASA employees

From the report, it is clear that some executives received remuneration illegally or incorrectly. One such case is the Intersite and Autopax Company Secretary, Mr Lindikaya Zide who took the responsibility of Company Secretary at Intersite and Autopax and continued to receive an allowance when he was no longer responsible for these positions. This amounted to approximately R250 000 of wasteful and illegal expenditure.

Additionally, declaration of interests were not submitted by suppliers, members of accounting authorities and employees. Twenty-two members are listed as not disclosing their interests and connections to suppliers including the previous Chairman of the Board, Popo Molefe. This is a contravention of the Section 50 PFMA.

The report also mentions although there was a request to pay the AGCEO an annual salary of approximately R6 million the Board could not provide proof of approval for this salary. Without such proof, Mr Letsoalo should not be entitled to this salary and should, therefore pay it back.

In order to get PRASA back on track and to ensure that South Africans have access to a safe and reliable rail system, the DA will take the following steps:

DA to lay further criminal charges against PRASA officials 

As indicated in the AG report the majority of the tenders went “through a system which is not fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective as required by Section 217 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and Section 51(1) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), as the appointment was not done through a competitive process.”

According to the Section 86 of the PFMA, an accounting authority is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, if that accounting authority wilfully or in a grossly negligent way fails to comply with a provision of section 50, 51 or 55.

Based on the information in this report the DA will lay charges against those implicated in terms of the PFMA which in this case is the is PRASA’s board who serves as the entity’s accounting officer.

PRASA must release Annual Report immediately

PRASA must immediately release the 2016/7 Annual Report to Parliament so the full context and performance of the entity can be assessed as legislated. The DA will write to the Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande, to ensure the urgent release of the report to the public. The Treasury reports commissioned by the Public Protector should be immediately released including an action plan by the Minister and PRASA executives when those implicated will be face consequences for their actions.

Parliamentary Inquiry into PRASA must commence immediately

Parliament, through the Portfolio Committee on Transport, must immediately begin its Inquiry into PRASA as PRASA and the Ministry has no appetite. This process is crucial to ensure that the rot in PRASA is removed. The Portfolio Committee has already agreed to this Inquiry and therefore, the DA will write to the Chairperson of the Committee, Dikeledi Magadzi, to urgently confirm the dates.

The DA has designed a rail plan that will create a safe and well-managed railway system which put commuters first and will ensure job security. The plan is based on four aspects:

  1. Stabilising and modernising the current rail system –  An urgent update is required to ascertain the progress on upgrading the current signal system to phase out the manual signal to prevent further crashes and derailment.
  2. Merge Transnet and PRASA under the Department of Transport – This means all rail-related passenger and freight services should become the direct responsibility of the Minister of Transport. This will streamline decision making and improve planning and integration.
  3. Ceding control of Metrorail services to Metros – This process will see Metropolitan governments take over Metrorail functions gradually which will ensure integrated public transportation systems and better governance. The Western Cape Government and the City have already committed additional security personal thus ensuring increased protection of commuters and infrastructure at risk.
  4. Diversifying Ownership – While the state should retain ownership of the infrastructure, the DA calls for the gradual privatisation of some railway operations. This will increase competition and choice for transportation in the rail sector.

The DA’s plan is the only alternative to the ANC’s broken public railway transportation system. Our rail plan will put commuters first and ensure job security because it will be safe, efficient and corruption free.

In 2019, South African have the opportunity to choose a government that is committed to empowering South African public transport commuters and ensuring that the rail transportation system puts the safety of South Africans first, ensures that South Africans keep their jobs and are able to use trains to find work.

Vrede Dairy Farm: ANC corruption being protected by the Public Protector

The Public Protector’s Answering Affidavit to the DA’s legal challenge to her report on the Vrede Dairy Farm is attached here. The DA’s Founding Affidavit and Notice of Motion can be found here and here.

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.