Public Protector welcomes handover of Estina project to beneficiaries
Public Protector Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane welcomes Free State Premier Ms. Sisi Ntombela’s handover today of the Estina Integrated Dairy Farm project to members of the Vrede community who were meant to benefit from the project when it was first launched in 2013.
This development concludes the implementation of the Public Protector’s remedial action as spelt out in a December 2020 investigation report, directing the provincial MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development to see to it that an audit of all those who were meant to benefit from the project is conducted.
From the audit, a database of beneficiaries had to be developed, taking into account the heirs of the intended beneficiaries who passed away while waiting for the project to take shape. The MEC also had to ensure that the project was revived and that the beneficiaries participate fully as collective holders of a 51% stake in the business.
The remedial action was informed by findings that the provincial Executive Council failed to execute its constitutional oversight responsibilities on the project. This stemmed from the 2019 investigation into the role played by Free State public office-bearers in the project and the plight of those who were supposed to benefit from the project.
The audit of beneficiaries, the development of the database and the resuscitation of the project aside, the Public Protector had directed the Agriculture and Rural Development MEC to also apologise in writing to the beneficiaries for the prejudice suffered.
In addition, Premier Ntombela had to see to it that the Speaker of the Provincial Legislature tables the report in the legislature for discussion and that members of EXCO are inducted and trained on their accountability and oversight responsibilities. The Premier also had to consider the findings in so far as they related to Ms. Qabathe and consider an appropriate sanction against her.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation was directed to consider the report alongside their own investigation into the matter for possible criminal charges. According to reports received from the respective offices of the Premier and the Agriculture and Rural Development MEC, all directives applicable to the two offices have been implemented.
“We are pleased that our investigations continue to be of value to society and, in particular, grassroots communities. We commend the provincial government of the Free State for adhering to the directives of independent institutions supporting constitutional democracy such as the Public Protector,” said Adv. Mkhwebane.
She congratulated the beneficiaries and urged them to make the most of the opportunity, saying the project would go a long way in helping tackle joblessness, poverty and hunger in the province.