The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture resumed today following evidence on the controversial Estina dairy farm project in the Free State city of Vrede. The Estina Group, which held a 49% stake in the Vrede Milk Farm, was supposed to contribute R228m to the controversial project but this never happened, and the so-called Estina Milk Farm Project’s multi-million Rand venture could thus never be sustainable and probably was never meant to be.
The details sent shockwaves through the room where the Zondo Commission on State Capture had to hear the evidence delivered by Deputy director-general of corporate administration and coordination in the Free State, Albertus Venter who gave his testimony on Tuesday, while DA Free State leader Roy Jankielsohn testified during his appearance on Monday.
The Commission also had to hear how shareholders were fooled with promises of them flying to India where they could undergo thorough training.
Informed observers point out that many of the carcasses of cows purchased for astronomical amounts of money, were later found on the farm where they had died of illness and malnutrition.
The Guptas have so far denied their involvement with Estina, but after the revelation of the #GuptaLeaks e-mails, South Africans now know there are several lies involved. The big question, however, is: What happened to the money donated to Estina for empowerment? The amaBhungane journalists found that R84 million had been transferred to Dubai.
The former DA councilor of the Phumelela municipality, Doctor Radebe, and Vrede businessman Willie Bassonia are expected to take the stand.
Two project beneficiaries, Ephraim Makhosini Dhlamini and Mishack Mpaleni, testified on Wednesday.
Tankisi Janki Masiteng, a Free-State government official, will continue his testimony on Thursday.
Masiteng, who started testifying on Wednesday, told the investigation he was not in the country when a document to accept a proposal from the Gupta-linked company Estina for the controversial dairy farm Vrede was signed.
Masiteng was at that time the chief director of district services at the province’s department of agriculture. He said he was in China when the document was signed.
Masiteng told the commission that it was wrong to blame him for submitted documents in 2012 to obtain a partnership with Estina.
The farming project, signed off in 2012, was promoted by the provincial government as a tool to benefit small-scale Free State farmers, using their services to produce and sell milk on a large scale.
However, of the R220m transferred out of state coffers to Estina – a Gupta-linked company contracted by the provincial department of agriculture to run the project – only 1% was spent on actual farming. Most of the remaining money went to individuals and entities associated with the Guptas.