Former Free State MEC for agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane’s oblivion to developments around him and his office on Thursday stunned Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
From the R200 million Gupta-linked Estina dairy farm project and a controversial 2012 trip to India, to questions about who funded the Umsingizane choir, Zwane portrayed ignorance throughout cross examination at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
In what he described as an “oversight role”, Zwane travelled to India in 2012 to meet the Paras dairy chief executive after wrongly assuming the company had a contract with his department on the Estina project in Vrede.
When the Paras chief executive could not meet him “because he had an emergency to attend to”, Zwane found himself with four free days in India, two of which he spent watching the choir perform.
While he refused to concede his trip constituted oversight “gone horribly wrong”, Zwane – who, a year later, was promoted minerals minister during the Jacob Zuma presidency – said he was under the impression Paras was “a contracted service provider to help with the dairy project”.
Conceding during questioning by Zondo and evidence leader Pule Seleka that no agreement had been concluded with Paras, Zwane said he relied on reports by his former head of department Peter Thabethe.
Zondo probed: “You wanted to meet the CEO of Paras in India to play the oversight role. How do you play oversight when you have no of idea whether there is a signed contract or partnership? Did you ask?”
Responded Zwane: “We don’t normally ask officials on things like contracts… I only knew that there was no contract after I left the department in March 2013.
Said Zondo: “When you go through the contract, you may not have to see every clause, but the main features.
“You went to India to meet the CEO of Paras and could have been embarrassed talking about a contract which did not exist – meeting an entity which you had no contract with. This amounted to wasteful and fruitless expenditure.”