"Today we are joined by the rightful intended beneficiaries of this project. Daily now we see the faces of the Guptas and Jacob Zuma in the news. But we never see the faces and hear the stories of the direct victims of these schemes. But here with us today are the most direct victims of the corruption and theft of our country’s resources by a small political elite – led by the Guptas and Jacob Zuma.
I stand here today with the residents of the town of Vrede – ordinary South Africans who should have been the direct beneficiaries of this large scale dairy farm which was supposed to fill the fields and the land directly behind us. Today I stand in solidarity with these South Africans, who face the real consequences of state capture by Zuma’s ANC and the Gupta dynasty.
The farm behind us was established in 2013 by the Free State Government, and was set to empower local residents and boost provincial agriculture through the establishment of a large scale dairy farm. The community based project, which targeted 80 intended local beneficiaries, was a joint private-public project between the Free State Department of Agriculture and Gupta-controlled Company, Estina. And that’s when it became clear the project wasn’t about the community of Vrede. It was about the pockets of the Guptas.
From the outset, this project was about self-enrichment. It appeared to be the idea of Mosebenzi Zwane – then MEC of Agriculture – who hails from Vrede. Coincidently, it was put into motion in early 2013 – just months after Zwane and officials from the Free State Department of Agriculture enjoyed a Gupta-funded trip to India in October 2012. This trip included multiple stays at Oberoi Hotels in India and a dinner at the Guptas’ house.
What followed was a clearly corrupt process leading to the Gupta-controlled company Estina “winning” the tender. Following extensive investigations, including one by the National Treasury, we now know that the awarding of the contract to Estina failed to follow many standard practices. These include:
- The Free State Government failing to follow supply chain procedure when they agreed to fund the project;
- The absence of any sort of due diligence carried out on Estina or its partnership with Indian Dairy Company, Paras;
- Funds being deposited directly into Estina’s bank accounts without any verification process as to where the money was being sent; and
- Estina has been given an upfront amount of R183 950 000 for infrastructure development of the farm without a single cent of their own investment.
The Gupta-controlled Estina still sits with R184 million of public money while the beneficiaries are left penniless. The only beneficiaries have been the Guptas and their ANC stooges. The Guptas ended up funneling money out of the company to launder through their UAE shell corporations, and then bounce back to South African Companies. Much of the money was used to pay for their Sun City wedding.
Some of the beneficiaries have been reported to have sold off their own livestock in anticipation of their participation in this project, but have received no dairy cows. They have told me of their pain and anxiety in waiting for a promise that is clearly never coming. It never was coming. Sadly, it was a lie from the beginning.
Their stories are our stories. We are all being robbed by a captured ANC who have in turn captured the state.
I am here today to tell the people of Vrede that the DA will not stop until justice is served for those who were meant to benefit from this project. And this fight doesn’t start today, it’s been ongoing for some time.
The DA laid a complaint on this matter with the Public Protector, and that report is set to be released in the next 48 hours. I will ensure that those recommendations are implemented without delay, so that those who ought to have benefitted from the Vrede Dairy Farm project are held to account and made to pay for stealing the peoples money.
In addition to this, the DA has taken criminal action against those involved. Last week, DA Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier, laid criminal charges against Mosebenzi Zwane, Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta, Rajesh Gupta, Ronica Ragavan and Kamal Vasram. The charges include:
- racketeering, money laundering, assisting another to benefit from the proceeds of unlawful activities, and acquiring, possessing or using the proceeds of unlawful activities in terms of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (No. 121 of 1998); and
- submitting false, or untrue, tax returns in terms of the Tax Administration Act (No. 28 of 2011).
We will closely monitor the process regarding these charges, and ensure that those who stole money and broke the law are put behind bars. In addition to this, we believe that crimes may have been committed in those other countries through which this money was laundered, particularly the United Arab Emirates. We will therefore be exploring criminal charges against the Guptas in the UAE for money laundering. We believe every possible avenue must be pursued to recover as much of this money as possible for the benefit of the people of Vrede.
I will also be writing to an array of international corruption watchdogs tasked with investigating cross border money laundering, including the Financial Action Task Force, the Financial Intelligence Centre, and the IMF’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism Unit, requesting that they launching investigations into this matter.
And lastly, I believe that the intended beneficiaries – who have been forgotten – deserve a voice, and deserve an explanation from those who were involved in profiting at their expense. I have therefore approached Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, requesting a full public hearing into this matter. Most importantly, we will make sure that these beneficiaries come to Cape Town to testify in Parliament and tell their story to the public hearings. The DA will cover the full cost of this trip.
I have also requested that the Chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Themba Godi, summon the former Free State MEC of Agriculture, Mosebenzi Zwane, the Premier of the Free State, Ace Magashule, and the current Free State MEC of Agriculture, Oupa Khoabane, and any other implicated individuals to appear before the committee.
Parliament must represent the people, and therefore the Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee must ensure that Parliament’s Constitutional mandate is fulfilled, and these residents be heard are given a voice and a public platform.
Those who steal from the people of South Africa belong in prison, not in power. The DA will continue to do all in its power to hold those in power to account, and seek justice for South Africans – especially the poor and the disadvantaged."