Mosebenzi Zwane admits Vrede dairy farm project 'was badly managed'

Despite admission, former Free State agriculture MEC denies any wrongdoing

13 May 2021 - 17:35
Former minister and Free State MEC Mosebenzi Zwane told the state capture inquiry he learnt of Estina's involvement in the Vrede dairy project only after he had left the department. File photo.
Former minister and Free State MEC Mosebenzi Zwane told the state capture inquiry he learnt of Estina's involvement in the Vrede dairy project only after he had left the department. File photo.
Image: Sizwe Ndingane

Former Free State agriculture MEC Mosebenzi Zwane has conceded that Estina had “badly managed” the controversial Vrede dairy farm project.

Zwane was appearing at the Zondo commission on Thursday.

Despite his admission, Zwane denied any wrongdoing. According to him, at the time the project started in 2012, he had no idea Gupta-linked Estina was involved. In fact, said Zwane, he was informed that an Indian dairy company, Paras, was the one that would run with the project hence his visit to India that year.

Zwane insisted he only learnt about Estina's involvement when he had left the department.

“In hindsight, knowing all issues, this project was badly managed,” said Zwane.

He added that the project was conceptualised in 2011 and was to be financed at a cost of R114m a year for three years.

In the first year, the provincial executive committee, he said, resolved that his department should “reprioritise R30m” from other projects and a provincial treasury committee was to come up with ways to find R84m.

Commission chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo was puzzled by this, as it gave him the impression that the project was not properly planned if it did not have a budget.

“In terms of thorough planning, I agree with the chair, it looks clumsy,” Zwane admitted.

Zwane, however, dismissed allegations that he intimidated and threatened to kill whistle-blowers who lifted the lid on the alleged wrongs identified in the Vrede farm project.

He slammed the commission for accepting such allegations, saying they were made without being backed up by evidence.

“It is unfair on me that such serious allegations can just be made without any evidence,” he said.

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