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Thabethe: Unknown person arranged meeting for me at Gupta residence

Thabethe is concluding his evidence on the project, which allegedly siphoned R200 million that was destined for smallholder farmers.

A YouTube screengrab shows Peter Thabethe, the former head of the Free State Agriculture Department, at the state capture inquiry on 28 October 2019.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Free State Agriculture head Peter Thabethe on Monday said he could not name the person who arranged for him to meet Indian businessmen at the Gupta residence in Saxonwold, but he said the Guptas themselves were not involved in the Vrede Dairy Project.

Thabethe was concluding his evidence on the project, which allegedly siphoned off R200 million that was destined for smallholder farmers.

He said his view was that the project failed because National Treasury withdrew funding and Indian partner Paras was hounded by the media.

Thabethe admitted that the department was shortchanged when Estina built a dairy processing plant that was later found to be sub-standard.

But he did not state this as one of the reasons why he believed the project failed: “Withdrawal of the funding to the project which was an instruction by National Treasury to the National Department of Agriculture. Secondly, after a lengthy media interaction with Paras…”

He denies that he had interacted with the Guptas before he was arrested and he didn’t know that their residence was the meeting place.

He also couldn’t say who arranged that meeting: "There was a person, who I am not able to identify, who was facilitating."