Vrede Dairy Project: What is MEC Qabathe hiding?

Roy Jankielsohn

Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

Today, during a sitting of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Small Business, Sport, Arts and Culture, the MEC for Agriculture, Mamiki Qabathe, refused to answer questions about the controversial Vrede Dairy Project.

MEC Qabathe’s behaviour today created a legitimate perception that she and her department have something to hide.

My questions to MEC Qabathe and her department was quite simple. I wanted to know:

  1. What role the department is playing in the Vrede Dairy Project given the fact that the project has been transferred to the Free State Development Corporation (FDC); and,
  2. What support, financial or other, the department is extending to either the project or to the FDC?

MEC Qabathe, at first tried, to dismiss these questions claiming that it pre-empts the debate of the State of the Province scheduled for Friday. After much debate, she then claimed that the committee was convened to discuss the department’s Third Quarterly Report, and that the Vrede Dairy Project does not fall within this report. After further debate she desperately indicated that the HOD was under oath and that she would not want him to give responses that he may come to regret at a later stage.

It is unfortunate that the chairperson, Thabo Meeko (MPL), conceded to MEC Qabathe’s desperate attempt to avoid accountability even after I stated that she has a constitutional obligation to respond to questions as part of the committee and the legislature’s mandate to hold the executive to account.

It comes as no surprise that MEC Qabathe did not want to discuss the multi-million rand project that is alleged to have benefited the Guptas. She has blatantly refused to answer written questions about the Vrede Project that was submitted to her in July and November last year.

I will now submit the questions I’ve asked today, as well as the outstanding written questions, in terms of the Standard Rules and Orders of the Legislature, that would compel her to answer these questions during a sitting of the legislature.