Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. File picture: Phill Magakoe

Parliament - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says she will investigate the role played by politicians in the controversial Free State Vrede dairy farm project.

Mkhwebane was asked by Parliament’s justice committee to investigate the role played by politicians following her appearance in Parliament this week.

A report on the project was released by the office in February and was considered a whitewash by political parties as they believed it did not go far enough to place the role played by certain politicians and the Gupta family.  

Mkhwebane said this will be a new investigation and is not linked to the report released in February as she believes that matters dealt with in that report have been finalized.

“It will seek to establish if there was any relationship between the politicians and the service providers appointed to implement the project and whether the beneficiaries of the project suffered any prejudice,” she said.  

“We are not reopening the old investigation. This is a new investigation which has nothing to do with the report that has already been issued as the allegations that formed the basis of that particular matter were finalized.”

The political figures that Mkhwebane is expected to investigate include former Free State premier Ace Magashule and former Free State MEC for agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane.


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 has links to the 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.

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 Magashule should institute disciplinary action against officials who were involved in the project.

She made no mention of the Gupta family’s involvement and that of political figures such as Magashule and Zwane.

The DA said, following the release of the report, that it would take Mkhwebane’s report for review as it did not hold Magashule, Zwane and Guptas responsible for the corruption related to the project.

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