South Africa: I Still Do Not Trust the Public Protector - Estina Dairy Farm Project Beneficiary

A beneficiary of the controversial Estina dairy farm project in Vrede in the Free State says he still does not trust Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

"We (beneficiaries and I) got to a point where we did not trust her. I did not trust her as a person anymore. Even to this day, I do not trust her," Ephraim Dhlamini told the state capture commission of inquiry on Wednesday.

Dhlamini's evidence put the spotlight on the Gupta-linked project, in which one hundred black emerging farmers were promised five cows each as part of an empowerment scheme.

Gifted to Estina in 2013 under a free 99-year lease by the Department of Agriculture in the province, the farm has been one of the most controversial transactions between the Guptas and a government entity, News24 earlier reported.

Dhlamini claimed Mkhwebane's investigations into the project did not include evidence from 82 beneficiaries.

"In her first report, how did she get to this conclusion? Who did she speak to or investigate?

"She never spoke to the beneficiaries. The first time we saw her was this year," he explained.

The beneficiaries lost faith in her office after Mkhwebane failed to uphold a meeting commitment set with them in 2018.

"Firstly, she promised us to visit in November 2018. She postponed the meeting and I had to call people and inform them that she was not coming. The second time, there was a misunderstanding between us.

"What did not sit well with me is that she addressed me in a manner I did not appreciate. She said that when she wants to contact me, I must always be available," he told the commission.

When Mkhwebane finally met the beneficiaries, she was accompanied by the media, according to Dhlamini.

It was at this final engagement that the beneficiaries felt there were no expectations of any further feedback from the Public Protector because there was a feeling that they could not trust her.

The Public Protector's report was set aside in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on May 20, 2019 after Judge Ronel Tolmay found that Mkhwebane failed in her duties to investigate and report on the Vrede dairy project.

As a result, the report was deemed unconstitutional, invalid and it was set aside.

The inquiry continues.

Source: News24

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