South Africa to open fresh probe into major corruption scandal

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Image Courtesy: The South African

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane pledged on Tuesday to open a fresh investigation into a corruption scandal involving a number of politicians.

Mkhwebane made the commitment during a presentation of her annual report and budget to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Service.

Responding to concerns raised by MPs about the lack of progress into the role of politicians in the scandal in relation with the controversial Indian Gupta family, Mkhwebane said, “The file will be opened and the matter will be investigated about the role of the politicians, as well as to the impact on beneficiaries.”

Mkhwebane was referring to the Vrede Dairy Farm project in Free State Province, into which the provincial government poured 220 million rand (about 18.3 million U.S. dollars) in 2013. Only 2 million rand (166,000 dollars) were in fact spent on the project. Most of the money allegedly went to Estina, a company owned by the Guptas.

Then Free State Premier Ace Magashule, who is now secretary general of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was blamed for the mishandling of the funding.

A number of local officials allegedly benefited from the project.

In a previous investigation, Public Protector Mkhwebane found that the Free State Agricultural Department did not properly handle the Vrede Dairy Farm Project.

Mkhwebane directed Magashule to institute disciplinary proceedings against all implicated officials involved in the project and submit a report to her office on the action he would take once a disciplinary process has been concluded.

Magashule left this job undone as he was elected ANC secretary general last December.

In January this year, the Hawks, a special anti-crime unit, conducted search and seizure operations relating to the Vrede Dairy Farm, at Magashule’s premises and that of the provincial Department of Agriculture.

The investigation into the scandal has since hit snags.

Mkhwebane’s pledge on Tuesday to reinstate investigation into the matter was welcomed by Mathole Motshekga, chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Service.

“No one is above the law,” he said, noting that everyone involved in allegations of mismanagement, maladministration or corruption must be investigated.

“This money was meant for poor South Africans to lift them out of the levels of poverty they are currently living in,” Motshekga said.

 

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