The DA welcomes the intervention by the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the controversial Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project in the Free State. This action indicates that there should be enough evidence for the arrests of implicated individuals to follow.
Under Premier Ace Magashule’s leadership, as a result of poor governance and corruption, the people of the Free State have become poorer and increasingly dependent on government grants for survival.
If Cyril Ramaphosa cares about our people, he will ensure that the corrupt patronage networks within the Free State Provincial Government are dismantled and the ANC cadres who are responsible for this are brought to book.
Ramaphosa now has an opportunity to show that he is serious about fighting corruption. He should insist that Premier Ace Magashule tenders his resignation to the Free State Provincial Legislature without delay well before the upcoming State of the Province Address next month. Magashule has zero legitimacy left to address the people of the Free State. His time is up and he must go.
Although the DA would welcome Magashule’s resignation, the buck does not stop there.
The DA is of the opinion that, while senior officials in the Free State Department of Agriculture are guilty of various breaches of the law, senior politicians in the province such as former Agriculture MECs Mosebenzi Zwane and Mamiki Qabathe, Finance MEC Elsabe Rockman as well as Premier Ace Magashule should be included in these investigations. Since Magashule became Premier in 2009, he has engineered an extensive network of patronage under the pretext of Operation Hlasela that has benefited his friends and cronies. The Vrede Dairy Project contracts are but some examples of this.
The political and financial support of this project, with the knowledge of the breaches of the law and other irregularities taking place there, makes senior ANC politicians complicit in the criminal activities that took place at the Vrede Dairy Project.
The DA has since the inception of the Vrede Dairy Project voiced concerns in the Free State Provincial Legislature about the breaches of the law, conflicts of interests, clear misrepresentations by ESTINA, the irregular Gupta connections, the side-lining of beneficiaries and the problematic nature of the contract between ESTINA and the Provincial Government which was drafted in the Office of Premier. In spite of the overwhelming evidence of fraud, theft and corruption, the Free State Provincial Government and Legislature continued to allocate and approve funding for this project.
A number of issues relating to this controversial project were forwarded to the Public Protector for investigation, who subsequently indicated in a letter that the investigation was completed and that a report would be available at the end of June 2017. Unfortunately, this report has not been forthcoming.
It is an indictment on the current Public Protector that this report has not been released prior to the NPA action. Such a report would strengthen the investigations of law enforcement agencies and its absence merely serves to create questions about her independence.
The people of the Free State deserve a new government and new beginning free from corruption. Only the DA can deliver a caring government that puts the people, especially the poor, first.
Issued by DA