Free State Premier Ace Magashule. File picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA
Johannesburg - The Free State provincial government says it will cooperate fully with the Hawks' investigation into the Vrede dairy farm project.

The director-general of the provincial government Kopung Ralikontsane confirmed on Friday that the Hawks had indeed raided the offices of the Premier Ace Magashule and the offices of the Department of Agriculture as part of a search and seizure operation

The raid is reportedly part of the Hawk's ongoing investigation into state capture, specifically the investigation into the Estina Vrede dairy farm project.

The project, which was allocated millions of rand meant to uplift black farmers, is believed to have been a scam to open up the doors for millions of rand to be looted by the controversial Gupta family.

Ralikontsane said the provincial government acknowledged that it was in the best interest of the province that this matter is finalised.

“We wish to assure the public that we will cooperate with all law enforcement authorities doing the investigations into the matter. It is, in fact, in our interest that this matter is brought to its finality to allow the Free State government to continue doing its work of changing the lives of the people for the better,” said Ralikontsane.

In response to the raid, the ANC has stood by its secretary general, Magashule, but have encouraged the Hawk’s investigation.

“The ANC is on the record that wherever corruption rears its head, it needs to be dealt with decisively. We understand that the Hawks raiding the office of the Premier is part and parcel of the work that needs to be done, in that the Hawks should be given space to do their work. The allegations that have been put must be investigated and those that are found guilty must face the full might of the law,” said the ANC’s head of communication, Khusela Diko.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the raid and said the unit was looking for documents and evidence related to the project.

“We will be in that area the whole day today looking for documents and evidence related to the project. Tomorrow we will move to the Vrede area,” said
The Asset Forfeiture Unit obtained a preservation order with regards to the more than 4000 hectares of farmland and for more than R220 million in several bank accounts linked to the Guptas, EWN reported.

Magashule is implicated in the corrupt dealings linked to the project as he allegedly gave the go-ahead for the project.

Earlier this week, when Magashule was asked about the investigation into the dairy farm project, he said investigations of corrupt activity should continue.

He also said that the fact that his son, Tshepiso, worked for the Gupta family was no secret.

Another high-profile individual who is implicated in the project is Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Zwane was the MEC for Agricultural and Rural Development in the Free State when the project was given the green light.

The Sunday Times reported over the weekend that the millions of rand for the farm went to fund a Gupta family wedding and most of the money was divided among Gupta family bank accounts for their businesses.

One of the Gupta brothers, Atul, received R10 million into his personal account.

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