Ace Not In Vrede Report

  • Public Protector Mkhwebane clears air
  • ANCYL FS claim agenda against party SG

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane should fast-track the release of Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s provisional report on the Vrede diary project to vindicate her position that ANC general secretary Ace Magashule is not implicated in it.

This was said by a buoyed ANC Youth League in the Free State yesterday, as it welcomed Mkhwebane’s recent revelations confirming Magashule has not been a subject of the Public Protector’s investigation into the multi-million project.

Only officials working for the Free State provincial government were probed, Mkhwebane pointed out.

The Public Protector on Tuesday put it on record that the former Free State Premier was never implicated in the Estina Dairy farm project’s provisional report to begin with.

She said she would make the provisional report, which she inherited from Madonsela, available to the public to prove this.

The Estina diary project, estimated at R200 million, was a Free State provincial government’s flagship programme aimed at empowering emerging black farmers.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) and the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) had approached the courts to rule Mkhwebane’s report unconstitutional for apparently failing to pursue Magashule.

The Public Protector said Magashule could not be probed on allegations purely contained in the controversial Gupta Leaks emails, cautioning both the DA and CASAC that this was not the manner in which investigations are conducted.

However on Monday, Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled that Mkhwebane’s report was unconstitutional and invalid and set it aside.

But Mkhwebane has disagreed with the judge and says she is consulting her legal team on the way forward as she plans to appeal the ruling.

Mkhwebane cited several points she says are fundamental to disquiet. Among these, she says a complaint cited in the judgement was only raised in May 2016 when the investigation had already wrapped up and before she took office.

She also said it was untrue that she had ignored, during her investigation, some information that was already in the public domain.

The Free State provincial government says it has noted the court ruling on Mkhwebane, and vowed to continue working with law enforcement agencies in getting to the bottom of the matter.

The director general in the office of Premier Sisi Ntombela’s office, Kopung Ralikontsane, said the office of the Premier will acquaint itself with the contents of the Gauteng High Court ruling setting aside Mkhwebane’s report before commenting further.

“The Free State Provincial Government has noted media reports about the Gauteng High Court judgement which relates to the Public Protector’s Report on the Estina Dairy Project. The Free State Provincial Government shall, after receiving the judgement, study its contents and respond if necessary,” noted Ralikontsane in a statement.

Ralikontsane said it was unfortunate that the provincial government was not party to the case in question, adding that the applicants did not cite it as an interested party.

“We will continue to make practical steps and efforts in ensuring that we sharpen and deepen our commitment towards the principles of sound financial management and good governance. We shall also continue to cooperate with all authorities which conduct investigations within our jurisdiction,” he added.

ANC Youth League spokesman in the province, Sello Pietersen said the young lions respect both the courts and the office of the public protector as a Chapter nine institution.

He noted the league is of the view that in instances where the public protector feels a matter was not handled properly, she has the right to speak out.

“We feel it’s the Public Protector’s constitutional right to challenge court outcomes that do not sit well with her. Her assertion that the SG is not implicated in Madonsela’s provisional report vindicates our position that there is a protracted agenda to bastardise the name of the secretary general,” said Pietersen.

He added it will be in the public interest for Mkhwebane to release her predecessor’s report and make it public so as to lay the matter to rest.

It is unfortunate that the agenda against Magashule is allegedly driven by people in and outside of the ruling ANC.

“Now it is clear there is nothing implicating comrade Magashule in the Vrede diary project; it is only people peddling lies repeatedly with the hope of believing they will turn true,” the spokesperson said.

By: Ramosidi Matekane