Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has been hit with another personal costs order.
This time, the matter relates to her investigation into the Vrede dairy farm project in the Free State.
The North Gauteng High Court found that Mkhwebane is personally liable to pay 7.5% of the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) costs and 7.5% of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution’s (Casac) costs.
The Public Protector’s office will bear 85% of DA’s costs as well as 85% of Casac’s costs, the court ruled.
This is the second personal costs order against Mkhwebane.
The Constitutional Court recently upheld a personal costs order against her in the Absa-Bankorp matter.
‘Failed the people’
In her ruling on Thursday, Judge Ronel Tolmay said that Mkhwebane had failed the people of South Africa in the way she conducted the Vrede investigation.
More specifically, her investigation denied Vrede dairy farm’s would-be beneficiaries a chance to improve their lives, Tolmay said.
Tolmay ruled that Mkhwebane failed to fulfil her constitutional obligations and “turned a blind eye” to irregularities that had a negative impact on the “poorest and most vulnerable.”
Public Protector’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe has already indicated that Mkhwebane will appeal the ruling.
The DA has reacted to the judgement, with the party’s Chief Whip John Steenhuisen calling on Parliament to act swiftly to consider her suitability for office.
Yet another personal costs order for our intrepid Public Protector. She staggers from one bruising court defeat to the next, all the while severely damaging the credibility of this important Chapter Nine institution. @ParliamentofRSA cannot kick the can down the road any longer!John Steenhuisen
Mkhwebane released the report in 2018. The DA and Casac moved to court to have it declared unconstitutional.
They argued that it failed to adequately investigate the political actors allegedly involved.
Tolmay agreed with their arguments, declared the report unconstitutional and set it aside.
Vrede dairy farm controversy
The controversial Vrede dairy farm project became emblematic of the alleged Gupta state capture project, this time in the Free State.
Reports indicated that around R30 million meant for the farm ended up allegedly paying for the Guptas’ infamous Sun City wedding in 2013.
The project was meant to benefit about 100 emerging black farmers.
However, a number of them have appeared at the Zondo Commission on state capture and testified how they didn’t benefit as planned.