Free State govt vows to deal against errant officials in Vrede farm

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The Free State government has vowed to take action against senior officials implicated in the multi-million rand dairy project in Vrede. Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has ordered the premier to take action against errant officials.

The provincial government has confirmed it has submitted remedial action to the Public Protector.

The Public Protector released a report on the Estina dairy project a month ago. She found widespread irregularities in the procurement processes.

Two months ago the Hawks raided offices of the premier and Department of Agriculture in Bloemfontein. The raid related to the more than R220 million corruption in the dairy project.

This was a project meant to uplift black farmers. Eight people, including Free State Agriculture HOD Peter Thabethe were arrested and are currently out on bail.

“We have to conduct various witnesses including the public protector and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and a few other people that can present the necessary information,” says Free State Director General Kopung Ralinkontsane.

Political parties in the Free State Legislature want decisive action.

“The remedial action needs to be applied as it has been stated in the report,” says African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip Spokesperson Phiwe Mathe.

Free State Democratic Alliance (DA) Chairperson Dr Annelie Lotriet says; “Should we then discover that the Premier of the Free-State does not adhere to the recommendations made by the PP (Public Protector), we will have to consider our options of which probably legal action would be one.”

The Public Protector will monitor the implementation of the remedial action.

“One of the things that ought to happen is for disciplinary steps to be taken against all the officials that were involved in the Vrede project,” says Public Protector’s Communications Manager Oupa Segwale.

The Free State Legislature has conducted an oversight visit on the Vrede farm. The report on the visit is yet to be released.