Johannesburg - The Zondo commission has heard how the Free State government signed a 99-year lease with Gupta linked Estina for the Vrede dairy farm project with no rent required to be paid.
Moses Moremi, the former Phumelela municipal manager, took the stand on Tuesday and detailed how officials from the Free State department of agriculture “hijacked” a council meeting to make a presentation on the Vrede dairy farm project.
Moremi said Peter Thabethe, a department of agriculture official, pleaded to be allowed to make the presentation to council.
Thabethe proceeded to sell the project to the municipality and spoke of the large benefits that the project would have for the community. He said it would uplift small scale farmers and it would also bring foreign direct investment.
Thabethe sought the municipalities approval to lease a farm owned by the municipality where the project would be run.
Moremi said there was pressure for the resolutions to be drawn up and for them to be signed off by the council. Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo expressed surprise and concern at the pace the council was expected to approve the deal in June 2012.
The 99-year lease of the 4400-hectare farm was eventually signed with Estina.
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.
It was 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. It was alleged that Atul Gupta also received R10 million in his bank account.