JOHANNESBURG – Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Free State Premier Ace Magashule have repeatedly sought to recuse themselves from the Estina Dairy Project scandal.
It saw millions meant for poor black famers allegedly channeled to Gupta family and company bank accounts.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says their offices failed to cooperate with an investigation into maladministration and financial irregularities linked to the project.
Her predecessor Thuli Madonsela also revealed that Magashule told her to seek answers about the project from Zwane, despite his insistence that he was ignorant of its operations.
Mosebenzi Zwane, last year, denied that he was aware of any Gupta family involvement in the Estina Dairy Project.
It is claimed in the so-called Gupta Leak emails R30-million meant for the empowerment of poor black farmers was used instead to fund a lavish 2013 Gupta family wedding.
Zwane, the Mineral Resources Minister, said, "As politicians, there’s nowhere where we sit in allocating any tender. I think that fact is well known."
Months later, the Asset Forfeiture Unit produced evidence that R220-million intended for the project had been siphoned off.
“Well, what you are also not saying is that I did say in that interview, that as a politician I always play [an] oversight [role]. As for the nitty-gritties of what happens on daily basis in the department, there are people who are employed to deal with that. Any wrongdoing, if it is proven, it must be dealt with,” Zwane added.
Zwane also referred all queries from the Public Protector about the Estina Project – which he had reportedly pushed for – to Magashule’s office.
Madonsela says Magashule, however, suggested that Zwane had far greater grasp of the project than he let on.
Madonsela had referred the report back to Free State investigators because she wanted the cell phone records and bank statements of those implicated in the project to be subpoenaed.
This, however, was never done and it was finalised without this evidence by her successor Mkhwebane.
She claimed the probe was hampered by a lack of cooperation by the Free State government.
The Hawks are currently investigating criminal charges linked to the project.