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Mkhwebane to launch fresh probe into politicians' roles in Estina matter

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Mkhwebane to launch fresh probe into politicians' roles in Estina matter

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

17th April 2018

By: News24Wire

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane told MPs her office will open a new case file to probe the role of politicians and individuals in the Estina dairy farm matter.

Mkhwebane was heavily criticised in February following the release of her report into the Estina case, which made findings against the Free State department of agriculture.

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The Democratic Alliance, the original complainants, labelled the report a "whitewash", as it had not probed the role of Free State premier Ace Magashule and the Gupta family, who are both implicated at the centre of the project.

The report was also criticised for not consulting more thoroughly with the intended beneficiaries of the project, who had been robbed of an intended R220-million in total.

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On Tuesday, justice portfolio committee chairperson Mathole Motshekga asked Mkhwebane if she was worried that investigative units like the Hawks were "running ahead" of her work by making arrests and raiding the Gupta family's compound.

Mkhwebane admitted that the previous Estina report did not include an investigation into politicians, as the report had been finalised in 2015 already, and the original complaint did not include a query into politicians.

She however responded to the question, saying they can open their own case file into politicians, without mentioning specific names.

"So we will have to relook into the roles especially of the politicians, and also the implications for the beneficiaries, and the impact on them."

She could not answer how long the opening of a new file will take, but undertook to give the committee a reply by the end of April when it is assigned to an investigator.

Mkhwebane was originally due to appear before the committee to present her office's budgetary needs for the current financial year and the medium-term framework over the next three years.

She said her department had a R29-million cumulative shortfall, and needed Parliament to improve her budget to R285-million this year and a total R870-million for the next three years.

In a separate question, she once again denied any personal involvement with the State Security Agency, a common accusation by the Democratic Alliance since her appointment in 2016.

Her office uses SSA as an institution to aid investigations, but that was it, she declared.

In another question, she also denied she had a frosty relationship with Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga, who was currently "on training" with the State Security Agency around qualititative protocols.

Questions continued on Tuesday.

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