#Estina only had R16 when Free State deposited millions

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Peter Thabethe
The former Free State Agriculture head, Peter Thabethe, came under fire for signing off on the controversial Vrede Dairy Project without doing any risk assessments.

This, as the State Capture Commission of Inquiry today heard how Estina’s account balance was just over R16 on 4 July 2012, days before the provincial government deposited an amount of R30 million into its account.

The commission heard how Estina was given large amounts of money and responsibility, without their accounts having been considered. The State Capture Inquiry evidence leader, advocate Leah Gcabashe, grilled Thabathe over what she said was irresponsible of the head of the department. She asked Thabethe how he was expecting Estina to pay more than R220 million, without any cent in their account.

Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo, further highlighted that Thabethe had an obligation to exercise his own judgment despite what he was advised on by state advisors. He alluded that Thabethe seems to have failed to do his homework and background check before he put his signature on any documents and authorised the project, which cost millions of taxpayers’ money.

In his defence, Thabethe, however, told the commission that he “was well aware” that the investment into the project was not coming from Estina but Paras. He said the project was split with the department covering the cost of the dairy and Estina the milk processing plant.

OFM News/Katleho Morapela