BRITS, February 16 – The African Farmers Association of South Africa (Afasa) welcomed the arrest of government officials and other individuals linked with the Vrede dairy project in the Free State, the association said on Friday.
“In many cases, black farmers have unfairly been portrayed in a negative way following cases like Vrede, where large investments are lost in failed projects conceptualised by corrupt individuals in the name of black farmers.
“The Vrede case is a typical example of many projects where officials connive with other well-connected individuals masquerading as farmers, to swindle government out of money meant for farmer development. Often these projects become white elephants. In the end, black farmers get a raw deal over these failures,” said Dr Vuyo Mahlati, president of Afasa.
She said Vrede was not an isolated case, adding that many other cases of failed projects presented as “support for black farmers” by government exist across the country.
“Corrupt individuals outside and inside government use such projects to siphon money from taxpayers, report huge investments for black farmers whilst depriving the hardworking black farmers the support they deserve. This has to stop,” she said.
During a consultative meeting with Free State MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Oupa Khoabane on Thursday, Mahlati expressed discontent over the incident.
The meeting was held in Sasolburg as part of Afasa’s provincial roadshows to promote productive farming and support commercial black farmers in the country.
Khoabane said the case of Vrede was unfortunate and welcomed the active engagement by Afasa, promising to do everything in his power to correct the corrupt practices.
“Projects meant to benefit farmers must be designed in consultation with the farmers with clear deliverables,” he said.
Seven of the eight people arrested by the Hawks during raids at Gupta compound were granted bail in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon – state officials Peter Thabethe, Sylvia Dlamini and Takisi Masiteng were each granted R10 000 bail, while Gupta-linked accused Varun Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Nazeem Howa and Ashu Chawla were each granted R200,000 bail. Ajay Gupta is reportedly on the run from authorities.
The case against Estina director Kamal Vasram was postponed to Monday.
They were arrested in connection with investigations into the Free State Vrede dairy farm project which saw millions of rand meant to benefit local farmers in the Free State siphoned off, allegedly for the benefit of the Gupta family.
– African News Agency (ANA),