South Africa: Estina Dairy Farm - Public Protector Takes to Twitter to Defend Herself Following Costs Ruling

Following a Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruling which found that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her office should pay for legal costs in the Estina dairy farm project, her office took to Twitter on Friday to defend itself.

It posted a November 2014 provisional report which was handled by Mkhwebane's predecessor Thuli Madonsela, commenting that the report contained no findings against any politician, as no investigation had been carried out against politicians.

"It directs the Premier to take action against the HOD and CFO," the Public Protector's office said.

When Mkhwebane assumed office in October 2016, she inherited the provisional report prepared by Madonsela.

The Public Protector also tweeted remedial action in the final report, dated February 2018, and the remedial action in the provisional report, dated November 2018, saying a "provisional report is a draft document and therefore subject to editing, and it hadn't been sent to parties for comment".

Mkhwebane quietly released the report in 2018, highlighting procurement irregularities, "gross negligence" and maladministration related to the controversial project.

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

However, the DA was of the view that Mkhwebane was not "prudent" in her investigation and that senior politicians implicated in the project had not been interviewed.

'Total disregard for the taxpayers'

The report fuelled public outrage when it failed to make findings against Magashule and former Free State agriculture and rural development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane.

News24 earlier reported that Part 2 of Mkhwebane's investigation into the Estina dairy farm was currently under way. Spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told News24 that Part 2 dealt with the role of politicians in the matter, as well as the "plight of members of the public who were meant to benefit from the project".

On Thursday, the High Court ruled that Mkhwebane had failed the people of South Africa with her first investigation into the Estina dairy farm, which had previously been set aside.

The court ruled that she should be personally held liable for the legal costs in the case and that she should pay 7.5% of the DA's legal costs, as well as 7.5% of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution's (Casac) costs.

The court further ruled that the Public Protector should pay 85% of the DA's attorney's fees and 85% of Casac's in her official capacity.

In her ruling, Judge Ronel Tolmay lambasted Mkhwebane, saying she had showed a "total disregard for the taxpayers who will have to foot the bill and flies in the face of her complaint about how financial constraints limited her ability to properly investigate".

"The failures and dereliction of duty by the Public Protector in the Estina matter are manifold. They speak to her failure to execute her duties in terms of the Constitution and the Public Protector Act," Judge Tolmay added.

Source: News24

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