Public protector must personally pay towards legal costs for her ruling on Estina farm project

15 August 2019 - 11:21 By Karyn Maughan
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane must be held personally liable for a percentage of the legal costs related to her office's Estina report, says the Pretoria High Court.

She must pay 85% of costs in her official capacity and 7,5% of costs in her personal capacity, Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled on Thursday.

Tolmay found the public protector “failed the people of South Africa” in the Estina investigation and “turned a blind eye” to irregularities that impacted on rights of “the poorest and most vulnerable”.

The public protector's office has already said she will seek to appeal the latest costs order against her.

The court ruled earlier this year that Mkhwebane had failed in her duties under the Public Protector Act and the constitution in investigating and reporting on the dairy farm project.

The #GuptaLeaks that showed the Gupta family had significant control over the farm contract between Estina, a company linked to the family, and the Free State agriculture department, did not form part of the public protector’s investigation of the project.

The leaked emails revealed at least R30m was paid to the Guptas via the farm. The money funded the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

The court added that Mkhwebane was “irrational” to ignore the #GuptaLeaks in her investigation.

Her report found that payments to Estina were not done according to the National Treasury’s regulations, and the agreement between the Free State agriculture department and Estina was invalid. But the report gave no indication what role then Free State premier and current ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and then provincial agriculture MEC and mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane might have played.

- Additional information from TimesLIVE archive

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