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Vrede dairy case not dead: ID



Staff Reporter

Investigations into the massive looting of state funds that grounded the Vrede Dairy Project in the Free State nearly 10 years ago have been taken over by the Investigating Directorate (ID) after the matter was provisionally withdrawn from the court roll in 2018.

ID spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka told The Free Stater in an interview this week that the matter is not dead and that a more pointed investigation is underway.

“Essentially, that’s hopefully the next case that we will be bringing before court,” she said on Tuesday, after Gupta ‘associate’ and businessman Iqbal Sharma was denied bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court for fraud and money laundering charges.

Sharma is jointly charged with several other people including former senior officials of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development who also face corruption charges.

The officials include the department’s former head Mbana Peter Thabethe, Limakatso Moorosi, also a former head of the same department, and Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini, the department’s former chief financial officer.

The matter relates to a R25 million feasibility study for the Mohoma-Mobung agricultural project which was irregularly granted to Nulane Investments 204 (Pty) Ltd, a company owned and controlled by Sharma, in 2011.

The company had to provide a report to the department within seven months.

Nulane, however, subcontracted the work to Deloitte Consulting Pty Ltd for R1.5 million.

It went on to charge the provincial agriculture department nearly R25 million without making any further input to the study.

The case of Sharma and his co-accused – who number 16 in total, including four Gupta family members – was picked during investigations into the Vrede dairy project as well as information that came up from the State Capture Commission.

Seboka said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) – within which the ID resides – handed over the investigation to them but there were many shortcomings and they had to start some of the work afresh.

“However, we cannot get into the details about our investigations because we know that it relies on a number of other things and cooperation with a number of other jurisdictions,” said the ID spokesperson without elaborating on the nature of investigations currently underway.

The ID was created through a proclamation by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April 2019 as an instrument in the fight against corruption, particularly serious, high-profile and complex cases.

It investigates corrupt activities in instances such as common law offences including fraud, forgery, uttering, theft and any offence involving dishonesty.

The unit also focuses on a wide range of statutory offences outlined under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, the Public Finance Management Act, the Municipal Management Act, the Financial Intelligence Centre Act as well as any other statutory offence involving dishonesty.

The Vrede Dairy Project was established in 2012 on Krynaauwslust Farm, near the small town of Vrede, in the northern Free State.

It was set up as a public-private partnership with Estina, a Black Economic Empowerment company, as part of the provincial government’s Mohoma-Mobung agricultural project.

Estina was given the land under a free 99-year lease.

The aim of the over R250 million dairy project was to empower black farmers and assist them enter the lucrative dairy industry but investigations have shown that no payments were made to the black beneficiaries.

The dairy farm, according to initial investigations, was just a shell through which money was sent to India and other offshore accounts allegedly for the benefit of the Guptas.

A total of eight people were arrested and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court in February 2018 facing numerous charges relating to the alleged misappropriation of funds at the Vrede Dairy Project.

Apart from Thabethe and Dhlamini, the accused also included another senior agriculture department official, former general manager for district services and current head of department Dr Takisi Janki Masiteng; former Oakbay chief executive officer Ashu Chawla; former Estina (Pty) Ltd director Kamal Vasram; two former Oakbay directors Nazeem Howa and Varun Gupta; as well as Tegeta Resources director Ronica Ragavan.

Estina (Pty) Ltd, Oakbay (Pty) Ltd and Aerohaven (Pty) Ltd were cited as accused four, six and 11, respectively.

The accused faced charges of corruption, theft, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and contravening the Public Finance Management Act.

The case however crumbled like a deck of cards after the state failed to substantiate its allegations with solid evidence before the court, forcing the NPA to provisionally withdraw the matter in order to get more information from overseas authorities.

At that time, the NPA said investigators had faced several challenges in getting critical information from authorities in India and the United Arab Emirates where Gupta-linked companies are believed to have moved government money meant for the Vrede project.


Two Free State women allegedly killed by ‘druggie’ sons



SHOCKING MURDER . . . A 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs

Two women from Mangaung have allegedly been attacked and killed in two separate incidents by their own sons believed to be using drugs.

In the latest incident which happened in Kagisanong along Masike Street at the weekend, a 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs.

Police spokesperson for Mangaung Metro Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said in the woman died on the scene from the stab wounds.

“The victim had visible multiple stab wounds on the head and body,” he said, adding the matter was reported by the brother to the deceased, who was also attacked by the suspect who is now in police custody.

Covane said the complainant informed the police that the suspect is believed to be using drugs and had asked his now deceased mother for money to buy drugs but she told him that she didn’t have money.

“The suspect got angry, went out of the house, came back with a piece of iron and stabbed the deceased with it several times,” he explained.

“When he was done, he turned to the complainant and also stabbed him on the chest.”

Covane said the uncle survived the attack but the daring suspect locked them inside the house and had to wait until Friday morning to get help.

The suspect was later traced and arrested by the police.
He is expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court this Monday facing charges of murder and attempted murder.

In a similar case, a 42-year-old man will be applying for bail at the Botshabelo Magistrates Court on the same day after allegedly strangling to death his 71-year-old mother last Sunday, August 7, 2022 in the E-Section, Botshabelo.

The suspect is also said to history of substance abuse.

Free State acting provincial police commissioner, Major General Modise, condemned the killing of the two elderly women. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule loses ConCourt bid to reverse ANC suspension



APPLICATION DISMISSED . . . The Constitutional Court says Ace Magashule has no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension as ANC secretary-general

Former Free State premier Ace Magashule has lost his latest court bid to have his suspension as ANC secretary-general lifted.

He had approached the Constitutional Court seeking to have his temporary ousting from Luthuli House reversed.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the apex court said Magashule had no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension.

“The Constitutional Court has considered the application for condonation and the application for leave to appeal. It has concluded that, although there are no reasonable prospects of success on the merits of the application for leave to appeal, the delay in bringing the application for leave to appeal is minimal,” the court said.

Magashule first approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge his suspension, but the matter was dismissed with costs.

He subsequently approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which dismissed the application in January 2022, prompting him to take up his case with the Constitutional Court.

Magashule was suspended from the ANC in May 2021 because of the party’s step-aside rule.

The rule requires ANC members facing criminal charges to step aside while their court cases are under way.

Magashule is facing corruption charges linked to the Free State asbestos corruption scandal. – Staff Reporter

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail



THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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