Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane allegedly instructed staffers to remove crucial information implicating ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and former minister Mosebenzi Zwane in the Vrede dairy farm scheme, News24 reported Sunday.
The allegations are contained in what the online platform describes as an “explosive affidavit” by a whistleblower, who further alleged in the legal document that information relating to the intended beneficiaries of the Gupta-linked scheme, which saw in excess of R250m in public funds funnelled through the farm’s holding company, Estina, was removed at Mkhwebane’s behest.
Mkhwebane allegedly instructed her investigators to not use information from the so-called GuptaLeaks email chain and not to make any findings in the report against any politician.
The report was released in February 2018 and made no finding against Magashule, who was Free State premier at the time of the project, or Zwane, who was Free State MEC for agriculture.
Magashule’s son was employed by the Guptas, while Zwane visibly championed the Guptas’ interests when he was former president Jacob Zuma’s minister of mineral resources.
“We were accordingly forced to remove any adverse findings contained in the report against any politician, including Mr Ace Magashule, the Premier of the Free State at the relevant time, and Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, who was the MEC for the Free State department of agriculture at the time,” the affidavit reads.
Mkhwebane dismissed the whistleblower’s allegations as “baseless claims” and said she will respond “substantively” in due course.
The affidavit was deposed under the Protected Disclosures Act by a Public Protector staff member whose identity is known to News24 and amaBhungane, the news platform reported.
It was sent to the National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office Friday.
The whistleblower is reportedly a senior staff member in the office of the Public Protector who was involved in the Vrede investigation.
Mkhwebane, meanwhile, will not be allowed to appeal an order to personally pay the costs of challenging the Estina Dairy Farm court case.
This follows the North Gauteng High Court’s judgment Friday, dismissing Mkhwebane’s application to appeal an earlier order that found her office liable for 85% of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution’s (Casac) legal costs.
The Public Protector was also ordered to pay 7.5% of the costs out of her own pocket.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said that the Public Protector was not surprised by the decision, adding the matter is “far from over.”
“Obviously, the Public Protector is disappointed with the outcome, but this is not the end of the road. She will be petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein to challenge the decision of the High Court – so the matter is far from over.”