Mkhwebane must personally pay legal costs for her ruling on Gupta-linked Estina

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Image: Esa Alexander

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane should be held personally liable for a percentage of the legal costs in her office's Estina report, says the High Court in Pretoria.

She must pay 85% of costs in her official capacity and 7,5% of costs in her personal capacity, Judge Ronel Tolmay ruled on Thursday.

Tolmay found the Public Protector “failed the people of South Africa” in the Estina investigation - and “turned a blind eye” to irregularities that impacted on rights of “the poorest and most vulnerable”.

The Public Protector's office has already said that she will seek to appeal the latest costs order against her.

The Pretoria high court ruled earlier this year that Mkhwebane had failed in her duties under both the Public Protector Act and under the Constitution in investigating and reporting on the dairy farm project.

The #GuptaLeaks that showed the Gupta family had significant control over the farm contract between Estina, a company linked to the family, and the Free State agriculture department, did not form part of the public protector’s investigation of the project.

The leaked emails revealed at least R30m was paid to the Guptas via the farm. The money funded the family’s lavish Sun City wedding in 2013.

The court added that Mkhwebane was “irrational” to ignore the #GuptaLeaks in her investigation.

Mkhwebane’s report found that payments to Estina were not done according to the National Treasury’s regulations and the agreement between the Free State agriculture department and Estina was invalid. But the report gave no indication what role then Free State premier and current ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and then provincial agriculture MEC and mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane might have played.

- Additional information from TimesLIVE archive

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