THE Phumelela Municipality was allegedly bullied into handing over the dairy farm that was later given to the Gupta family to run.

Former municipal manager Moses Moremi told the Zondo Commission yesterday of how rules were bent. He said the Estina dairy project was rushed through with promises to develop the tiny municipality and create jobs.

Moremi said the council had agreed to a resolution that would place the farm in the hands of the Guptas for 99 years for free.

He said provincial head of agriculture Peter Thabethe came to a council meeting unannounced and did a PowerPoint presentation on the project. 

There was apparently no background yet the council resolved to adopt the project. 

Moremi said there should have been more information in the presentation so the council could have been better prepared.

The resolution included the council agreeing to a provincial department request to allow for ownership in partnership with Zena Investment.

But the farm was apparently later handed to Estina, a subsidiary of the Guptas.

“There may have been some discussions with the mayor, but for me as municipal manager it was the first time I had heard about the project,” said Moremi.

A draft resolution by Thabethe at an official council meeting stated that there should be no rental paid by Estina for the farm. It also recommended that the council have a 4% stake in the operations. 

Moremi said he discouraged the council from adopting the resolution and it listened.

But former premier Ace Magashule’s adviser at the time, Ashok Narayan, and an Estina lawyer allegedly came with a drafted agreement that needed his signature. 

He declined to sign and raised concerns about some parts of the agreements, which they said they would take up with stakeholders. 

“I didn’t even know who those stakeholders were,” he said.