Vrede dairy farm project: Case against ex-minister Zwane and co-accused transferred to High Court

Alex Mitchley


Former minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Ronica Ragavan (centre) and Ugeshni Govender (right) appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on 28 September, 2022.

PHOTO: Alex Mitchley/News24

The fraud, theft and money laundering case relating to the Estina dairy farm project, in which former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane is one of the accused, has been transferred to the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein.

Zwane, former Free State Agriculture and Rural Development Department head Peter Thabethe, former Agriculture MEC Seipathi Dhlamini, Takisi Masiteng, as well as Gupta associates, Kamal Vasram, Ronica Ragavan and Ugeshni Govender, appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

The court heard that the State had disclosed the contents of the docket and that the matter was being transferred to the High Court.

The case was subsequently postponed to 25 January next year.

News24 reported in September that Zwane had made his first appearance in court alongside former Sahara employee Govender and the so-called Gupta lieutenant Ragavan.

READ | Vrede dairy farm corruption: Zwane, 2 co-accused granted bail

Zwane, who is currently an MP, was detained after he handed himself over to police.

He was granted R20 000 bail. Govender was granted bail of R10 000. The State did not oppose bail for either of them. 

Zwane and his co-accused have been charged in relation to the R280-million Estina dairy farm project.

According to the Investigative Directorate, the Free State Department of Agriculture’s coffers were looted by a Gupta-linked company called Estina, using the Vrede dairy farm project. 

In 2012, Estina entered into an agreement with the department to establish and implement a dairy farm project in Vrede meant to benefit emerging farmers and other identified beneficiaries in the area. 

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However, it is alleged that no one benefitted and that millions of rands were siphoned off to the Guptas. 

Zwane was the Free State agriculture MEC at the time.

In its last report, the State Capture Inquiry recommended that Zwane and former Free State premier Ace Magashule be criminally charged for their alleged role in the scandal. 

Magashule has not been charged in connection with the Vrede dairy farm project. 

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chaired the inquiry, also suggested that the provincial government get legal advice about suing Zwane and Magashule to recover money lost as a result of them failing to fulfil their legal obligations as MEC and premier at the time.