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Estina cattle deaths blamed on media, funding suspension

The former head of the Free State Agriculture Department claimed the reason cattle started dying on the Estina dairy farm is that the media had started investigating the scandal and financial support for the project had been suspended.

A screengrab shows Peter Thabethe at the state capture inquiry on 20 August 2019.

PRETORIA - The former head of the Free State Agriculture Department claimed the reason cattle started dying on the Estina dairy farm is that the media had started investigating the scandal and financial support for the project had been suspended.

This was the evidence of Peter Thabethe at the state capture commission on Tuesday.

His evidence contradicts statements of an earlier witness who told the commission that the animals were starving because the farm manager, an Indian national brought in by the Guptas, was not qualified to rear cattle.

Thabethe disputes this version.

“I am not disputing that the cows died, and it was not because he did not have knowledge. The difficulties that we had was mainly issues of finance. The cattle arrived at the same time when the media started investigating and we were not able to advance the money.”

However, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo pointed out that the issue with funding was because proper due diligence was not conducted before the department signed a deal.