Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Mkhwebane denied leave to appeal Estina cost order

By Zintle Mahlati Time of article published Dec 13, 2019

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Johannesburg - The High Court has dismissed Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane's application for leave to appeal the Estina Dairy Farm report ruling which ordered she be held partially liable for legal costs.

Judge Ronel Tolmay delivered her judgement on Friday following arguments from Mkhwebane's legal team earlier this week. Her legal team had argued that the Supreme Court of Appeal may come to a different perspective on Mkhwebane's handling of the matter.

The Public Protector was dealt a blow when the High Court ruled against her in May regarding her handling of the Estina Dairy Farm investigation. The case was brought by the DA and the Council for the advancement of the South African Constitution. Both organisations opposed Mkhwebane's application.

The court set aside the report as unconstitutional and unlawful. Mkhwebane was held liable for 7.5% of the legal cost for the case. The basis for her loss was the fact that the investigation had failed to focus on all actors in the corruption involving the Estina Dairy Farm matter. And, as a result, it failed the people most affected by corruption.

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.
The Sunday Times reported how millions of rand that were paid to the Estina bank account were quickly paid out to various bank accounts belonging to Gupta owned companies. Atul Gupta also received R10 million in his bank account.

The DA welcomed the ruling on Friday and said it was a victory for the 80 beneficiaries that were meant to benefit from the project.

"The judgement will ensure that further costs are not expended by the Public Protector, who cited her limited resources as a reason for the restricted initial investigation, on further unnecessary legal fees. She must now carry out a comprehensive investigation and ensure that her recommendations are in line with her role to ensure justice for the marginalised people in our society and remediate malfeasance in government," the party said in a statement. 

Mkhwebane's office tweeted that she will be petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge Judge Tolmay's ruling.


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