Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane attending court proceedings at the North Gauteng High Court after the DA brought an application against her report on the Vrede Dairy Farm project Photo: Brenda Masilela / ANA

PRETORIA - The Public Protector's legal representative argued at the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday that the Democratic Alliance has a vendetta against Busisiwe Mkhwebane and always compare her to her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.

"The DA has never supported the appointment of this Public Protector.... which was free, fair and open," said Advocate Vuyani Ngalwana.

Ngalwana made this assertion during an application brought by the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution to have Mkhwebane's report on the Vrede Dairy Farm project reviewed and set aside.

Ngalwana said the court should not grant the DA the application: "The DA wants to remove her from office and is using the courts to get it's way."

Mkhwebane received backlash for the report when she released it early this year. The criticism was largely based on the fact that critical politicians were not interviewed for the report. 

The Vrede Dairy Farm project was established by the Free State government to help uplift underprivileged farmers in the area.
 
The project was allocated R220 million and only R2 million was spent on the farm. None of the people who were destined to benefit received anything from the project.

The tender for the project was awarded to a company called Estina, which had links to the controversial Gupta family. The company was awarded the tender even though it had no history of running similar projects.

Mkhwebane assumed office in October 2016 and inherited a provisional report prepared by her predecessor Madonsela.

In her report, Mkhwebane found that the Free State department of agriculture was guilty of maladministration for its handling of the project.

She found that proper processes were not followed and that the tender agreement between Estina and the department was illegal.

She ordered that then-premier Ace Magashule to institute disciplinary action against officials who were involved in the project.

However, the DA's view is that Mkhwebane was not prudent in her investigation and that senior politicians implicated in the project were not interviewed.

Ngalwana argued that the effectiveness of an investigation is surely not determined by the “bean counting” of documents and said Mkhwebane had already indicated that she finalised a report which was already prepared by Madonsela.

"It should come as no surprise she oversaw less documents and interviews."

Ngalwana said Mkhwebane is lambasted and attacked for doing one interview, but Madonsela conducted two interviews. 

“The DA attacks this public protector for conducting one inspection...but there is no attack on Madonsela for an attempted inspection."

The matter continues.

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African News Agency (ANA)