Vrede investigation to be reopened to focus on “role of politicians”

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will focus on the “roles of the politicians” alleged to be involved in corruption in the reopened investigation into the Vrede dairy farm.

“I agree chairperson, in that matter the file will be opened and the matter will still be investigated now purely on issues of the roles of the politicians in this particular matter,” Mkhwebane told MPs on Tuesday.

Mkhwebane was grilled by members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice on the “institutional instability” at her office and on why she had not included political interference as part of the scope of her investigation into the Vrede dairy farm, in the Free State.

At a previous meeting with the committee on March 6, Mkhwebane admitted to leaving information out of her final report on the farm that pertained to the Gupta family and their political connections. Previously, Mkhwebane’s report on the farm had provoked public outrage after it failed to make any findings against Ace Magashule, who was the Free State premier during the establishment of the farm, and Mosebenzi Zwane, the MEC of agriculture at that time.

The announcement of the reopening of the investigation comes just after the Haws raided the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound on Monday afternoon. The compound was seized under a restraint order that was issued to the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority in an order of the Bloemfontein High Court.

During the portfolio committee meeting on Tuesday, chair of the committee Mathole Motshekga had strong words for Mkhwebane over the conduct of her investigation into the matter.

“Is it not a concern to you, the fact that the Hawks are running ahead of you, raiding the office of the premier of the North West province, then of premier of the Free State, when you have had an opportunity to look into what is happening in those provincial government as part of your responsibility to support democracy?” he asked.

Mkhwebane will now have to play catch-up as authorities have already made arrests in connection with the Vrede case and the Guptas remain out of the country. Magashule and Zwane have largely been left untouched – except for the raid on Magashule’s old office in the Free State – but the public protector will now face close scrutiny as she must prove how exactly she will go after politicians when she failed to do so in her first investigation. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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