Pretoria – DA leader Mmusi Maimane has questioned whether the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was deliberately withholding the release of a report into the Vrede dairy farm project, ahead of the upcoming ANC elective conference.
Speaking at the Public Protector’s offices in Pretoria on Tuesday, Maimane was accompanied by several beneficiaries of the Vrede dairy project.
He said he would be meeting with Mkhwebane to demand that the report be released.
The Vrede dairy project in the Free State came under the spotlight after it emerged that R30m, which was supposed to go to the Vrede dairy project, was diverted through a web of Gupta-related companies to allegedly pay for the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia in 2013.
The DA laid a complaint with the Public Protector.
“It was as early as September 17 when I wrote to the Public Protector to say we demand a meeting to discuss a number of things. At the forefront of the issues we wanted to raise with the Public Protector, is the issue of Vrede Farm,” said Maimane.
He added that they had received communication from Mkhwebane in April, saying that the release of the report was “imminent or in the late stages of conclusion”.
“Our people are still waiting. Nothing has happened.
“It’s like the Public Protector would not want to release the report before the ANC conference, I can only assume that,” said Maimane.
“In our view, we must come in and say the Public Protector can’t also be captured, so that’s why I am here today. To hear reasons from her why this report has not come out.”
Maimane said it could also be that Mkhwebane was compromised and protecting people by not releasing the report.
He pointed fingers at Minister of Mineral Resource Mosebenzi Zwane and Free State Premier Ace Magashule as those who “captured the farm” and gave money to the controversial Gupta family.
“But while they were doing all of that, they promised these fellow South Africans that they would be the beneficiaries of the project. By that they meant that these were South Africans, who were shareholders in this farm. But clearly it was just a front, a betrayal of our people, a selling out.”
Ephraim Dhlamini, who was a beneficiary of the project, said beneficiaries were promised 51% in the dairy farm, which was functioning well with milk being sold. But beneficiaries were never paid a cent.
“This tells you that they were just using our names, taking our ID numbers without us knowing their true intentions,” said Dhlamini.
He added that he was very sad because Vrede has a lot of young people who are just sitting around after finishing school and who were looking to beneficiaries to support them to go to university.
“We could be giving them bursaries so they could get an education, not benefiting outsiders who are not part of the community. That cannot be acceptable.”