Agriculture department pays debt with cattle

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture has exchanged 310 cattle worth R1,3 million to cover debt incurred for feed for the animals.

According to DA sources, the department allegedly purchased stock feed from a certain Mr Mthombeni, but failed to pay for it – and have subsequently struck a deal with him to cover the costs by handing him ownership of the cattle.

The DA regards this transaction highly irregular and will request Public Protector, Adv Thuli Madonsela to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sale of the cattle. We have been informed that the cattle, belonging to the Department of Agriculture and located at the Nooitgedacht Agricultural Research Centre near Ermelo, were sold on a public auction on 31 January 2013 resulting nearly R1.3 million being deposited into the personal bank account of Mr Mthombeni, instead of the Department’s account.

According to documents in our possession, shortly after the auction, on 6 February 2013, a departmental official confirmed in writing that Mr Mthombeni was a duly appointed “strategic partner” of the department, as he had been assisting with “management issues” at the research farm.

To our knowledge, the cattle were auctioned by Vleissentraal Ermelo with the purpose of distributing the animals amongst young, up and coming farmers.

If the department had then decided to use the proceeds of the sale to pay Mthombeni for the feed, the money should have first been received by the department and then paid out to the supplier. However, with the revenue going directly from Vleissentraal into Mthombeni’s personal account, there is no way that the department can financially account for the transaction.

To this end, we will be writing to the Public Protector to request an investigation into the sale and the suspicious appointment of Mthombeni as a strategic partner of the department. We will be providing the Public Protector with all evidence in our possession.

Furthermore, the DA will submit formal written questions to the MEC for agriculture, requesting her to clarify the questionable circumstances of this transaction, and to shed light on Mr Mthombeni’s involvement and role in the department

Government and the department has a mandate to empower emerging farmers, not hamper their advancement with colluding and corruption.

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