The corruption case against former Free State agriculture and rural development MEC Mosebenzi Zwane and his 16 co-accused has been postponed to 21 April 2023.
Estina dairy project
Zwane and his co-accused, including eight companies, on Wednesday, appeared briefly in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein, in connection with the controversial R280 million Estina dairy farm project.
Judge Johannes Daffue deferred the matter to April, for a further case management session.
This was to allow for all parties to respond, by 27 February 2023, to Section 212(b) requests of the Criminal Procedure Act that the state furnished to the accused.
The case was also postponed for the accused to respond to questions in writing in order for the court to get an indication of whether the defence is ready for trial.
It also emerged in court that the state had withdrawn charges against Estina (PTY) LTD, which is currently undergoing a liquidation process. However, the representatives of the company still face charges.
The spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority‘s Investigative Directorate, Sindisiwe Seboka, said when the case resumes in April the high court would have a clear idea of when pre-trial proceedings could take place.
Zwane and his co-accused face charges of fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering over the alleged looting of the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development through a company called Estina.
Estina entered into an agreement with the department to establish and implement a dairy farm project in Vrede to benefit previously disadvantaged farmers and to uplift the people of the Vrede area.
However, the project has been embroiled in allegations of state capture after it emerged that it was allegedly designed to extract funds from the state and was a front for money laundering and the source of funds for the Guptas’ lavish wedding at Sun City resort in 2013.
Zwane was the MEC for agriculture and rural development at the time of the project.
Accusations ‘without facts’
Speaking to journalists after the matter was adjourned, Zwane said while he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the corruption case, he looked forward to his day in court in order to clear his name.
“I believe that I should be given an opportunity to put my side of the story without making anybody feel disrespected in this case.
“I stand firm in my commitment that I will cooperate with the law and allow this case to see its day. I think people have been accusing me for all this time without facts,” he said.
Zwane’s accused in the matter are former Free State head of the Department for Rural Development – Peter Thabethe, former chief financial officer – Seipati Dhlamini, former chief director of district services – Takisi Masiteng, Estina director – Kamal Vasram, former Sahara employee – Ugeshni Govender, Islandsite former director – Ronica Ragavan, and eight companies.