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Johannesburg - Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has denied that her department funded a controversial food security NGO chaired by President Jacob Zuma, the City Press reported on Sunday.
The Masibambisane Rural Development Initiative was reportedly supposed to be funded mainly by the agriculture and rural development departments to the tune of R900 million.
According to the report, the departments have cut ties with the project and Zuma is set to launch a similar project, Fetsa Tlala, in Kuruman in the Eastern Cape.
Joemat-Pettersson told the newspaper: “Masibambisane was never an implementing agent, and they will not be for Fetsa Tlala”.
She recommended that those departments who funded the initiative should have Masibambisane audited.
“If I have given them money, the first thing I would have demanded was an audit... Masibambisane was never (the department of) agriculture's baby,” she said.
Rather the project was initially involved with the department of rural development, but had “rolled over into agriculture”.
Previous reports about the project have highlighted concerns that Deebo Mzobe, reportedly Zuma's cousin who ran the project, had undue influence in the departments.
Joemat-Pettersson said: “Rural development would come to my department and say 'Mzobe says blah, blah, blah.
“I would then say: 'Who is Mzobe? He is not part of my department?' That is not what I do.”
Mzobe told the newspaper he found her remarks “strange” and that he did not believe she said such things.
“There is no way she can say we must be audited, knowing very well that there is no money we received from her department or any other department,” he was quoted as saying.