'Astonished' public protector wants to challenge Estina ruling in ConCourt

20 May 2019 - 18:48 By Nico Gous
File photo: The Vrede dairy farm project.
File photo: The Vrede dairy farm project.
Image: Alon Skuy

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she was astonished and disagreed “fundamentally” with the Pretoria high court ruling on Monday that her office’s report on the Guptas’ Vrede dairy farm project was unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

The court ruled that the report should be set aside.

“She is concerned over, among other things, that in setting aside the entire report, the ruling might be interpreted as though the court condones the maladministration attributed to the parties against whom adverse findings were made,” Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said in a statement on Monday evening.

Mkhwebane wants to go straight to the Constitutional Court to challenge the ruling.

“Rather than arguing the merits of her case in the media, Adv Mkhwebane will express herself at the apex court should direct access be granted," Segalwe said.

The Pretoria high court ruled that Mkhwebane failed in her duties under both the Public Protector Act and under 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.

Mkhwebane’s 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.

Mkhwebane claimed in Monday’s statement she could not investigate the #GuptaLeaks because the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture was instructed to investigate state capture and that it would have been “illogical” for her office to launch its own investigation.