Gopolang Moloko
2 minute read
30 Apr 2018
1:58 pm

Mkhwebane tackles ‘malicious’ Vrede farm claims head-on

Gopolang Moloko

The public protector says people are trying to have the public believe she is protecting politicians.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is seen during a press briefing held at her offices, 4 December 2017, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has hit back at accusations that she deliberately dragged her feet in the Gupta-linked Vrede dairyfarm project and protected senior politicians.

Mkhwebane was responding to an announcement by lobby group Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) that it would seek a court order declaring that Mkhwebane had failed to discharge her constitutional duties.

Casac, after accusing Mkhwebane of ignoring the contents of reports regarding the involvement of the Gupta family in the project, said Mkhwebane had deliberately curtailed the investigation, acting in a manner inconsistent with the demands of an independent office.

The counsel accused Mkhwebane of protecting ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Mkhwebane said although the matter was before the courts, she was of the view that letting the allegations go without a challenge would have dire implications for her office in the eyes of the public.

She said the claim that she “watered down” the unsigned Vrede Integrated Dairy Project investigation draft, which was incomplete when she assumed duty in October 2016 and was resumed shortly after, was without any substance.

“The reason such documents did not enjoy any legal status was because they were essentially drafts or working documents.”

Mkhwebane denied the idea that there was any “watering down” of the provisional report, adding the reports that were drafts had no legal status and the public protector had no legal obligation to implement any purported unsigned provisional report that she would have found in office on assumption of duty.

Addressing allegations of politicians linked to the project, she said the report would show that the involvement of the politicians was never part of the investigation and neither did it form part of the report.

“Any suggestion that the public protector shielded politicians is therefor devoid of any truth, and is malicious,” and added that some people were desperately trying to have the public believe that she came into office to protect politicians.

The public protector’s office has taken a decision, at the request of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, to investigate the involvement of politicians in the project.

“The investigation seeks to establish if there were any relations between politicians and the suppliers appointed to implement the project. It will also seek to find out if the beneficiaries of the project were in any way prejudiced,” the public protector’s office said.