Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane. File photo: ANA

Cape Town - Pressure is mounting on Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane following her report into the R200 million dairy farm tender in Vrede in the Free State.

Mkhwebane's report into the tender which is at the centre of corruption allegations against the controversial Gupta family and leading political figures, including Free State Premier Ace Magashule and former provincial agriculture MEC and current mining resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane, was released on Friday.

Mkhwebane made no adverse finding against Magashule or Zwane and, whilst acknowledging media reports regarding Gupta companies linked to the controversial tender, also made no finding against the family and its businesses. 

Instead, she ordered Magashule to institute disciplinary action against provincial agriculture head of department Peter Thabete and other officials for the illegal issuing of the more than R220 million tender to the Estina Dairy company in 2012. 

Read more: #VredeDairy: List of Public Protector's findings and recommendations

But her evoked outrage amongst opposition party ranks and other organisations, with many calling it a sham.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), in a statement, said: "The report is an insult to the intelligence of all South Africans, which confirms the view that she has betrayed the principles of her office, and who has been captured by those corrupt individuals she is supposed to be exposing.

"Her report is nothing but a feeble attempt to exonerate the main politically prominent figures in the scandal and switch attention on to minor players who have committed relatively minor offences and are now convenient scapegoats."

Mkhwebane had found that black farmers who were due to be the beneficiaries of the project had been pushed aside, and “implied that they were used as pawns to justify the project”.

The Public Protector report added: “A meeting with some of them indicated that they were merely names on a piece of paper with no further information or involvement”. 

Also read: Mkhwebane finds Free State Department guilty in #VredeDairy project

The Democratic Alliance (DA) earlier said the party was weighing up a possible legal challenge to the report.

"There has been a large amount of evidence of grand corruption and money laundering relating to Vrede that is already in the public domain," DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement. "Yet none of this seems to have been investigated by the Public Protector.

"It is therefore unconscionable that her report is nothing more than a whitewash of a grand project of corruption and looting," Maimane said. "The Public Protector chose to ignore our submission that the project originated in the office of Free State Premier, Ace Magashule, and made no mention of the involvement of the Guptas and how they benefited from this project.

“This stinks of a whitewash,” Maimane added.

The Public Protector report comes a few weeks after the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation carried out a raid on the offices of Magashule and the Free State Department of Agriculture in relation to the controversial Vrede dairy project.

African News Agency/ANA