The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture is expected to continue with testimony from former Free State agriculture head Peter Thabethe, related to the Estina dairy farm project in Vrede.
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Zondo commission: Taxpayers’ money wasted on ‘bright idea’
Taxpayers’ money was wasted on an unnecessary trip to India in pursuit of the Estina dairy farm project, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Thursday.
A 2012 trip to India, taken by former Free State department of agriculture head Peter Thabethe and Ashok Nayaran, the adviser to former premier Ace Magashule, had commission head Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo questioning its merits.
The trip, Thabethe confirmed, was undertaken by his department.
Zondo questioned why Nayaran had to accompany Thabethe on the trip.
‘Why didn’t you protect taxpayer money?’- Zondo asks former Free State agriculture head
A lack of planning ahead of the establishment of the controversial Estina dairy farm project not only compromised the project, but wasted taxpayers’ money.
This was revealed on Friday as former Free State Department of Agriculture head, Peter Thabethe, continued with his testimony before the state capture commission of inquiry.
On Friday, the commission tried to understand why Thabethe did not conduct the relevant due diligence while planning for the project. In his testimony on Thursday, he indicated that he had conducted “desktop research” on companies that specialised in dairy production in New Zealand, the Netherlands and India.
Thabethe said he came across Paras, the partner company in the project, during his research.
Estina dairy project: The intention was never realised, Zondo Commission hears
The intended beneficiaries of the Estina dairy farm project have no legal documentation to prove they are beneficiaries and therefore, no legal recourse.
This was according to state capture inquiry evidence leader, advocate Leah Gcabashe, who grilled former Free State Department of Agriculture head, Peter Thabethe on the failed project.
The commission was discussing a partnership agreement between Estina and the department. However, the beneficiaries were not part of the agreement.
At the time the agreement was signed, they had already identified the land but had not yet gone through the formalities of acquiring the land.
Thabethe unclear what expertise Paras brought to dairy project, commission hears
It is unclear what expertise Indian dairy producer Paras brought to the Vrede dairy project.
Testifying at the state capture commission of inquiry, the former head of the Free State department of agriculture, Peter Thabethe, said he was not sure what exactly the company had brought with them from India.
“There was a stage when they indicated that there was a vet on site, but I am not really sure exactly what expertise overall,” Thabethe told the commission.
He added: “I think Dr [Tskisi] Mastieng would have maybe known exactly what expertise was on site.”
Estina promised big cash but only had R16 to its name, state capture inquiry hears
Despite promising to put about R200m into the Vrede dairy project, Gupta-run company Estina only had R16 in its bank account a day before the agreement between it and the Free State Department of Agriculture was signed.
Former head of the department, Peter Thabethe, was grilled on Tuesday at the state capture commission of inquiry.
Thabethe conceded that the department had not done proper due diligence on Estina.
He explained that they had agreed that funding would come from India-based dairy production company Paras through Estina.
State capture inquiry: Safe houses were abused by Crime Intelligence officials and suppliers
Safe houses intended for Crime Intelligence operations were abused by officials for personal reasons, the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
The whistleblower into the alleged looting of the secret service account within the unit, Colonel Dhanajaya Naidoo, detailed how he, as well as officials such as former head of intelligence Richard Mdluli, former chief financial officer General Solly Lazarus, other officials and suppliers, allegedly abused the safe houses for personal gain.
This comes as the commission shines a light on alleged state capture within the unit.
In one instance, Mdluli allegedly wanted the unit to rent his personal property in the Western Cape to be used as a safe house.
State capture inquiry: Estina testimony postponed after Thabethe’s legal team withdraws
The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday postponed the testimony of the former head of the Free State Department of Agriculture, Peter Thabethe, after his legal team withdrew.
Thabethe revealed this information to inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. While he did not go into any detail, he said he knew “what the problem was”.
“His evidence will run for a further two days. He will be more comfortable if he is guided by a set of lawyers,” evidence leader advocate Leah Gcabashe SC said.