AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Mosebenzi Zwane appears in court for pre-trial hearing in R280m Estina corruption case
The R280-million Estina corruption case, in which former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane is one of the 15 accused, has been postponed to 29 August 2023 for further pre-trial processes.
Former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and his co-accused made a brief appearance in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Friday morning, in connection with the multimillion-rand Estina Dairy project fraud and corruption case.
The matter had been transferred to the Free State High Court in November 2022. In January 2023 the case was postponed to Friday, 21 April for a pre-trial conference.
On Friday the case was postponed to 29 August for further pre-trial processes.
The 15 accused include Zwane, former Sahara employee Ugeshni Govender, the former sole director of Estina dairy farm, Kamal Vasram, and former Free State department of agriculture and rural development official Takisi Masiteng.
The other accused include former head of the Free State department of agriculture and rural development Peter Thabethe; former chief financial officer of the department, Seipati Dhlamini; and director of Gupta-owned company Islandsite Investments One Hundred and Eighty, Ronica Ragavan. All three are also accused in the R24.9-million Nulane Investments case in which a ruling is expected on Friday on whether they will be discharged without having to defend themselves.
Between them they face charges of fraud, theft, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.
Money for nothing in return
The charges emanate 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 disadvantaged black farmers in the province were allegedly looted for the ultimate benefit of the Guptas.
The project was conceptualised by Zwane, who was Free State agricultural MEC at the time, and 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 the high court on Friday morning, prosecutor Peter Serunye – who is also the lead prosecutor in the Nulane case – said the lawyers for the accused have received the State’s dockets and some have submitted replying affidavits, while others are still outstanding. He said some of the documents are also very bulky, with one report with up to 2,500 pages and about 414 statements.
The State thus agreed with the legal representatives that they need more time to work through the documents supplied. DM