Free State MEC opposes DA application on Estina
Johannesburg - Free State Agriculture and Rural Development MEC William Bulwane has challenged the provincial DA court application to force his department to appoint 80 beneficiaries of the failed Estina Dairy Farm project.
The DA lodged an urgent application on October 22 in the Bloemfontein High Court and the matter was due to be heard on Thursday but the government filed papers opposing the application before the deadline.
Bulwane, head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), as well as the Free State Development Corporation, filed their opposing papers last Wednesday.
The Bloemfontein High Court will now schedule a new date for a hearing after the government and the Development Corporation have filed their answering affidavits.
On Tuesday, DA Free State leader Dr Roy Jankielsohn was confident the court would rule in their favour in the application. “No project of this nature with its large financial investment has a reason to exist without beneficiaries,” he said. “The beneficiaries were, and continue to be, abused as a pretext to fund the project that is running at a huge loss with no benefit for the local community or the province.”
Jankielsohn said after an initial R380 million was paid to the Gupta-linked Estina company to establish the project, DARD continues to invest R20m a year in the project. He said after eight years and a contract that allocated 51% shares in the project to them, the beneficiaries allegedly remained completely sidelined.
“Although some officials and other individuals have been charged with the corruption regarding the looting of this project, the DA continues to push for the political architects of the project to be held accountable.
“It is a serious indictment on the MEC and the DARD that they are opposing the DA’s court action to assist the impoverished beneficiaries. It was the politicians who created the expectations among beneficiaries for improved lives and livelihoods through this project, and it was the same politicians who shamelessly dashed these hopes.
“This in itself is a brutal crime against them, besides the money that was stolen from them and the people of the Free State,” Jankielsohn said.
Free State Agriculture Department spokesperson Zimasa Leputla said that they would not comment on Jankielsohn before filing their answering affidavits.
Last month, Leputla said that the DA’s application came “a little too late”. “In March this year, the department had already initiated a process of engaging the initial beneficiaries of the project, through a consultative session that took place in Vrede.
“The session was attended by the rightful beneficiaries of the project including family representatives of those who had already passed on. It was in that consultative session where the department conveyed its intentions of involving the beneficiaries to be part of the project as shareholders,” Leputla said.
She said the process of verifying the correct beneficiaries has since unfolded and the department hoped to conclude the process by the end of this month.