Bloemfontein - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Saturday accused Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of deliberately withholding her report on the Gupta-linked Estina Dairy Farm in Vrede in the Free State and threatened legal action if she did not release the report soon.
"I am told our new Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants to take the DA to court for calling her a spy. It has taken her exactly a year to come to this decision. We welcome any opportunity to speak about her background and her ability to perform her job," Maimane told delegates at the DA's Free State congress in Bloemfontein.
"But we have other legal business with the public protector that predates this decision of hers by many months. We are still awaiting her report on the Estina dairy farm in Vrede, which was due more than six months ago," he said.
"In March this year, she stood in the Free State legislature and told us that the investigation was complete and that the report would be released in April. Of course April came and went and she promised us a new deadline. In July we were again told it would be out within days. It is now almost November.
"I have it on good authority that the report has been lying on the desk of the public protector for months. It is also highly suspicious that all communication on this matter between her office and the DA in the Free State ended the moment the Gupta email leaks story broke which connected the Vrede farm money with the Gupta wedding. I can only assume this hard evidence has set the cat among the proverbial pigeons in her report," Maimane said.
The "victims of this crime" – the 80 farmers from the local community who were meant to benefit from the project but had been left stranded – could not wait any longer for justice. "And so I will be writing to the public protector on Monday to demand the release of the report within seven days, failing which we will seek a declarator from the court compelling her to do so.
"I will also give the chair of Scopa [parliament's public accounts committee] Themba Godi one more opportunity to schedule a public hearing for the victims of this crime. If he again refuses I will bring them to parliament myself so that they can tell their story to the committee and demand answers," he said.
Corruption was not a victimless crime. These were real people whose dreams had been crushed and whose lives had been put on hold, all because the friends of President Jacob Zuma and Free State premier Ace Magashule "saw a chance to steal more money". They would not get away with it, Maimane said.
Writing in the Daily Maverick in July, Maimane said the Estina project was meant to build a dairy farm that would be owned by 80 beneficiaries from the local community.
"The Estina farm has taken centre stage in an international money laundering scandal – uncovered by amaBhungane and Daily Maverick’s Scorpio – that saw R180 million in public money being funnelled through a complex web of local and international companies, all controlled in one way or another by the Gupta family.
"In the end, some of this money eventually made its way back to South Africa to pay for the costs of the extravagant Sun City wedding that the Gupta family hosted in 2013. This was the same wedding of Waterkloof Airforce Base infamy, when the Guptas showed enough clout in government to land their private chartered plane at a state air force base," Maimane said.
African News Agency