Zondo grills former FS agriculture HOD over Estina

A dairy cow on the Vrede Dairy farm that was run by Gupta company Estina. The farm was intended to benefit the community but has been alleged to be a front for money laundering and also alleged to have been the source of funds for the Gupta wedding. Picture: Neil McCartney

The former Free State department of agriculture head of department, Peter Mbana Thabethe, on Thursday took the stand at the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Thabethe has been implicated in previous testimony related to the Vrede Dairy Farm project in the Free State.

The commission is focusing on evidence relating to the failed project, which involved Gupta-linked Estina Pty Ltd.

Evidence leader at the commission, advocate Leah Gcabashe told the inquiry’s chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that though Thabethe had been implicated in previous testimony, he had indicated that he was willing to assist the commission.

The commission previously heard testimony that Thabethe had made a presentation to the council of the Phumelela Municipality on the proposal of the project.

Furthermore, it heard that he had allegedly duped the former Phumelela Municipal Manager into signing the cession of land rights from the local municipality to the province, which later resulted in the provincial government granting Estina a 99-year lease agreement.

These were among issues Thabethe is expected to respond to while on the witness stand at the commission on Thursday. – Makhosandile Zulu/The Citizen