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Mosebenzi Zwane and co-accused in Estina dairy corruption case set for trial in high court

Mosebenzi Zwane and co-accused in Estina dairy corruption case set for trial in high court
Archive Photo: Former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane appears in the dock alongside his co-accused (not pictured) Ronica Ragavan and Ugeshni Govender, at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court in Free State, relating to fraud and corruption relating to the Vrede Dairy farm. (Photo: Dan Ingham)

The criminal case against the former Mineral Resources Minister and his 16 co-accused who face charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering has been postponed to January 2023 in Bloemfontein. 

Former Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane and his co-accused appeared briefly in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning, in connection with the R280-million Estina Dairy project in the Free State. 

The State added former Free State department of agriculture head, Peter Thabethe; former department of agriculture chief financial officer, Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini; former acting head of the department, Takisi Masiteng; and the former sole director of Estina dairy farm, Kamal Vasram to the case — as well as eight companies. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Explainer: The eight Gupta-linked suspects who appeared in court

The three former Free State government officials and Vasram appeared in court on Wednesday alongside their co-accused in the case; Zwane, former Sahara employee Ugeshni Govender, and director of Gupta-owned company Islandsite Investments, Ronica Ragavan

Zwane — who is currently an ANC MP and the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport — was arrested on 28 September, after handing himself over to the police, before appearing in court along with Govender and Ragavan. 

The State did not oppose bail, and Zwane and Govender were both released on R10,000 bail each. Ragavan was warned to appear in court when the matter resumed on 2 November, as she was previously arrested in this matter in 2018. 

On Wednesday, the matter was transferred to the Bloemfontein high court and is scheduled for 25 January 2023.


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The 16 accused in the case face charges of contravention of the Public Finance Management Act, fraud, corruption and money laundering, said the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID), spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka.

 

They appeared on charges emanating from alleged looting of the Free State Department of Agriculture through a company called Estina,” said Seboka.

The charges stem from the Vrede Dairy project scandal, in which the Free State government unlawfully paid the Gupta family’s company Estina, more than R280-million for nothing in return. The public funds which were meant to benefit small-scale black farmers in the Free State, sidelined the intended beneficiaries and allegedly lined the Guptas’ pockets. 

The project was conceptualised by Zwane — who was Free State agricultural MEC at the time — along with Thabethe. 

In the State Capture commission’s final report, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo singled out Zwane, Thabethe and suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule who was the Free State Premier at the time, as the primary architects behind the looting of the Free State department of agriculture through Estina.

In his report, Zondo criticised Thabethe for failing to do his job, and condemned Zwane and Magashule for not performing their oversight duties as MEC and then-premier and for “pursuing the agenda of the Guptas” when they aided the looting of millions of rand from the Vrede Dairy Project. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    As someone who works with small scale farmers it makes me extremely angry reading that R 280 Mio were wasted on these Gupta-leeches. Just R 2 Mio would make a huge difference in the lives of 10 of farmers I am working with.

  • Nos Feratu says:

    R10,000 bail? For stealing millions? Smacks of favouritism, nepotism, cadre deployment and a few other things but certainly not justice.

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