South Africa: Vrede Dairy Project - DA Has 'Consistently Been Critical' of Mkhwebane - Lawyer

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The DA's attack on Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's Vrede dairy report is politically motivated and the party wants to impose its own outcome, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana, SC, representing Mkhwebane, told the court that the DA was "consistently being critical" of Mkhwebane as the Public Protector.

"This application is not about the Public Protector failing to do her job. It is about the DA trying to impose its preferred investigation on the Public Protector," Ngalwana said.

"They want to impose the issue that must be investigated, regardless of issues such as financial constraints. The DA wants to impose its own preferred outcome of the investigation.

"The DA wants this court to step in the shoes of the Public Protector. That is wrong. We say this is an abuse of the court," Ngalwana argued on behalf of Mkhwebane.

The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution have applied to have Mkhwebane's report on the project declared unconstitutional, reviewed and set aside.

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme, but never received them.

Gifted to Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the provincial agriculture department, the farm has been one of the most scandalous transactions between the Guptas and a government entity.

The #GuptaLeaks revealed last year that at least R30m paid to the Guptas via the farm project ended up funding the family's lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

Earlier this year, Mkhwebane quietly released the report highlighting procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial project.

She recommended as remedial action that then Free State premier Ace Magashule "initiate and institute disciplinary action against all implicated officials involved in the Vrede dairy project".

But the DA argued that when she assumed office, Mkhwebane was required to conduct a preliminary investigation into the merits of the complaint lodged by the DA's Roy Jankielsohn or refer the matter to another appropriate investigative authority.

In the application, the DA argued that Mkhwebane failed to investigate the complaint.

Between 2013 and 2016, Jankielsohn submitted three complaints to the Public Protector in respect of the project, calling for the role of the provincial government and Magashule to be probed.

When Mkhwebane assumed office in October 2016 she inherited a provisional report prepared by her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.

However, Ngalwana said: "There was nothing special, with respect, or there was nothing extraordinary about this complaint."

Ngalwana said the DA's "attack" on Mkhwebane was not about the rule of law.

He also accused the party of wanting Mkhwebane to adopt the style and language of her predecessor, advocate Thuli Madonsela, and not assume her own.

Ngalwana said the DA was unhappy because the report did not confirm the party's "preconceived view on the culpability of persons it wanted to be found culpable".

He also added that in conducting her investigations, the Public Protector "can't be running around chasing after what the media says".

Source: <b>News24</b>

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