South Africa: Estina Farm Project - State Capture Inquiry Hears How Legislature Failed the People of the Free State

Dairy farm (file photo).

The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has heard how the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm project was a classic example of how the provincial legislature and its committees failed the people of the Free State.

On Monday, Roy Jankielsohn, a member of the Free State legislature, told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo when the alleged irregularities in the project took place, the committee chairperson "blocked opposition members' attempts to probe these issues".

He said when opposition members in the legislature raised the issue they were "ridiculed and insulted by the governing party" in attempts to deviate from those issues.

"This is a classic example of how the legislature and its committees have failed the people of the Free State by not allowing this issue to be interrogated," Jankielsohn added.

"Senior people in the government knew what was happening in Vrede, they cannot deny that they knew what was taking place there. In spite of that, they continue to appropriate provincial government funding to that project and still do so today."

He added when he raised the issues of the farm project during debates in the legislature, MECs and the premier opted to rather use "personal insults against myself and my colleagues' position rather than deal with the substantive issues that we raised during our debates and that continues to take place up until now".

Jankielsohn also claimed members of the legislature were controlled by "political bosses".

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

One hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of the empowerment scheme but never received them, News24 previously reported.

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

During his testimony, Jankielsohn also detailed how beneficiaries of the dairy farm project were still being sidelined.

"Many Vrede residents are poor, there's huge unemployment and people were hoping that this project would bring some relief to at least 80 people who were identified as beneficiaries, and unfortunately, they are still being sidelined.

"Chairperson, the beneficiaries are the most important people in this project. They are the ones who are supposed to benefit from this project by receiving some sort of livelihood from it and meaningful employment."

Meanwhile, the Free State government continued to fund the collapsed project to the tune of R20m a year, he said.

This after Gupta-linked Estina withdrew from the project in August 2014.

It was then taken over by the Free State Development Corporation.

The commission will continue to hear testimony from the deputy director-general of corporate administration and coordination in the Free State, Albertus Venter.

It will also hear the testimony of two beneficiaries.


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