Battle for recognition of Estina Farm Dairy Project beneficiaries heading to High Court

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The battle for the recognition of the beneficiaries of the Estina Farm Dairy Project in Vrede is heading to the High Court. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has lodged an application in which it seeks to compel the government to recognise more than 80 people as the rightful beneficiaries of the multimillion-rand project.

The Free State government has filed a notice to oppose the application. The DA has accused the government of neglecting the would-be beneficiaries. The controversial dairy farm project was established eight years ago. Some of the intended beneficiaries are now deceased.

Free State DA leader Roy Jankeilsohn says, “The department spent R380 million on the project which was allocated to the Gupta-linked Estina Company and since then, they’ve been allocating R20 million a year and you cannot allocate so much money to a project if there aren’t beneficiaries.”

Freedom Front Plus’ Devar Smith also wants justice to be served. “The extent of corruption at the Estina Project, at the Vrede Dairy Project, is immense and the taxpayers’ money simply has to be regained and the Freedom Front Plus feels the guilty parties have to be prosecuted.”

Economic Freedom Fighters Free State leader Mandisa Makeseni has also weighed in.

“We hope finally whatever the report that would come will be more detailed so that it can assist both the public protector and the committee at large. Indeed, the committee, the people that are supposed to do the oversight, especially from the party they are trying to block everything that we are willing to do, they make it difficult for us to do the oversight.”

The government says the DA has jumped the gun by approaching the High Court.

Department of Agriculture Provincial Spokesperson Zimasa Leputla.

“We need to verify who the credible beneficiaries were because there were in some instances, contestations on the people that were supposed to be rightful beneficiaries,” says Department of Agriculture Provincial Spokesperson, Zimasa Leputla.

African National Congress Chief Whip Vusi Tshabalala says the would-be beneficiaries will be interviewed to assess whether recruiting procedures were followed.

“Remember that we are new and we don’t know how the lists were done and how the beneficiaries were recruited. We have just been told. Now, the part that we wanted to do was to ensure that each and every person who was recruited into being a beneficiary must be interviewed by ourselves as a committee, from then whether this process was done fairly or whether some of the members of the beneficiaries have been sidelined.”

Meanwhile, some of the intended beneficiaries want to be compensated. They have accused the government of using their details to secure the project.

The matter has also been a subject at the State Capture Commission: