Seven of the eight suspects who appeared at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's court in connection with charges of fraud and corruption related to the controversial Vrede dairy farm project. Picture: Matthews Baloyi / ANA

Parliament - Two parliamentary committees have convened a special sitting for next week to inquire into allegations that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) delayed the arrests of suspects in connection with the Vrede dairy farm case, a statement from South Africa's national legislature said.

The statement said the justice and police portfolio committees will sit on March 7 in a meeting to which embattled NPA boss Shaun Abrahams and Yolisa Matakata, acting head of of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, more commonly known as the Hawks, would be invited.

"This follows the Portfolio Committee on Police’s meeting on 28 February in which it heard that the NPA had delayed the arrest of suspects in the Vrede dairy farm case until February 2018, even though the Hawks finalised its investigation into the matter in 2017."

In February, the Hawks arrested eight people for allegedly misappropriating taxpayers' funds meant for the Vrede Dairy Project, which was set to benefit black farmers in the Free State. The project was run by Estina, a company linked to the Gupta brothers, who are at the centre of allegations of state capture, a term referring to the looting of state resources by politically connected individuals. The Gupta family are close friends of former President Jacob Zuma.

This week, Matakata told Parliament's police committee that the Estina docket had been ready in November last year and had been forwarded to the NPA. The NPA only gave the Hawks the green light to effect arrests in February this year.

“The efforts of the Hawks to fight organised crime should not be hampered by slow decision-making. Prosecution-driven cases dealing with state capture and court-ready dockets should be prioritised," said police committee chairman Francois Beukman on Friday.

Justice committee chairman Mathole Motshekga said MPs wanted answers.

“We cannot have the public doubt our institutions and, therefore, we need to get to the bottom of this. The NPA will have to explain why there was such a long delay.”

African News Agency/ANA