Former minister Zwane appears in court for alleged fraud and corruption in failed R280 million Estina Dairy Farm Project

BLOEMFONTEIN (South Africa), Sept 29 (NNN-SANEWS) — Former Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, has appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on charges of alleged fraud and corruption related to the failed R280 million Estina Dairy Farm Project.


Zwane, who is currently a Member of Parliament, appeared in the court alongside former Sahara employee Ugeshni Govender and former director of Islandsite Ronica Ragavan.


The former minister was the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State at the time the project was signed off in 2012.


National Prosecuting Authority Investigating Directorate (NPA ID) head Advocate Andrea Johnson said the arrests and the appearance in court is another step in the unit’s crackdown of those accused of facilitating and participating in State capture.


“The enrolment of this case demonstrates the commitment of the ID to deal with perpetrators of State capture. This case should serve to remind the people of the Free State that this matter was not forgotten.  It does however take long to investigate and put together appropriate charges for prosecuting such complex cases.


“The Vrede Dairy Project destroyed the lives of the people and communities it was supposed to empower and uplift. The enrolment of the matter is a step closer to delivering justice to the people who were alleged to have been prejudiced by the criminal conduct of the accused,” Johnson said.


NPA ID spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka explained that the project was aimed at benefitting emerging farmers in the Free State but investigations revealed that the entire project “was designed to extract funds from the State”.


“On 05 July 2012, Estina…entered into an agreement with the Free State Department of Agriculture to establish and implement a dairy farm project in Vrede to benefit previously disadvantaged farmers and to uplift the people of the Vrede area.  In terms of the agreement, Estina was to provide a capital injection of R228 million. Paras Dairy – a company incorporated in India – was presented as Estina’s partner in the Vrede Dairy Project.


“In the charge sheet, the Investigating Directorate  alleges that [in] terms of the agreement between the Department of Agriculture and Estina, the beneficiaries were to own 51% of the AGRIBEE entity and the remaining shares were to belong to Estina.


“The agreement further stipulated that the department was to contribute R342 million…[and] Estina received R280 million from July 2012 to April 2014.  Investigations also revealed that no proper tender procedures were followed with regards the decision to fund the proposed Vrede Dairy Project. Estina did not adhere to its obligations in terms of the agreement as only the department paid its contribution into bank accounts held by Estina,” Seboka said.


All three accused were released on R10,000 bail.