Last week the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the Public Protector’s (PP) attempt to appeal the previous High Court judgements against her relating to the controversial R350 million Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project investigation report. This ruling adds to the PP, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s, poor track record in court and speaks to her inability to interpret the rule of law.
In the first case the DA took the initial investigation report under judicial review. In her judgement of 20 May 2020, Judge Tolmay found that the PP contravened the Public Protector Act and the Constitution, the very instruments that should have been used to investigate, expose and remediate the bureaucratic and political malfeasance in the Vrede Dairy Project. It is for this reason that Judge Tolmay declared that the PP report regarding the Vrede Dairy Project be “set aside and declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid”.
The PP attempted to obtain leave to appeal this judgement which was denied by the same court on 13 December 2019. The PP then attempted to appeal this judgement in the Supreme Court of Appeal. On 21 June 2020, Justices Wallis and Schippers of the Appeal Court dismissed this application indicating that there was “no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.
There is no longer any reason for the PP not to finalise the investigation report and release her findings on the Vrede Dairy Project that include issues relating to both the ongoing side-lining of the rightful beneficiaries and the role of politicians in the malfeasance that took place there. The PP’s continuous legal attempts to prevent further investigation and findings on this project raise serious questions about her motives and her ability to take objective decisions in this regard.
The DA will scrutinise the final report on this project to ensure that all the controversial aspects relating to the project were investigated and that the findings correspond to this. The side-lining of beneficiaries for the past seven years remains a serious concern since not only have they been robbed of the promise of a better life, but a project of this nature cannot legitimately exist without beneficiaries. The politicians who continued to fund this project after a National Treasury investigation found substantial irregularities there soon after its initiation, and then authorised a R106 million payment to the Gupta-linked Estina company after the contract was cancelled, must be held accountable for this.
This project remains a prime example of how the ANC-run government has abused land reform projects for corrupt purposes and to benefit cronies, while emerging and subsistence farmers are robbed of improved livelihoods and left in poverty. The DA in the Free State Legislature have been vigorously pursuing justice in this project since its inception and will not rest until justice has been served.
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