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Debt adds to swanky school swindle story

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Copy of ST pg 1 SEC CredeAcademy206.JPG (42671281)

THE STAR

Crede Deo Academy private school in Pretoria North is accused of defrauding a company for textbooks worth R100 000. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Johannesburg - More administrative horror stories have emerged about Crede Deo Academy, a Pretoria North private school accused of swindling teachers, parents and landlords out of millions of rand in the past two years.

On Wednesday, The Star revealed that one of the school’s financial administrators had been arrested on fraud charges for allegedly defrauding a textbook supplier of more than R100 000.

The Gauteng Department of Education has also confirmed that the school is not legally registered, and urged parents to open fraud cases against the academy with the police.

Now it has emerged through several former staff members, disgruntled landlords and parents that the school is hundreds of thousands of rand in debt and being sued for another R500 000 in damages.

Christo van Niekerk, the owner of the large house used as a hostel for more than 30 pupils last year, said he was initially told by principal Simone Fourie that she was going to use it as a chartered accountant training centre.

But after months of not receiving rent, Van Niekerk asked the city council to shut off the electricity to the home.

However, he said, the home continued to run with an illegal connection, and he eventually had to resort to eviction processes to get them out.

Van Niekerk claimed that when the pupils and Fourie were evicted last month, all the home’s furniture went with them. Also, Fourie had run up more than R100 000 in electricity and water bills during her stay.

The landlord is now suing Crede Deo Academy for the more than R500 000 owed to him in rent, and has lodged a criminal case of theft against Fourie for the loss of the furniture.

Meanwhile, the owner of the school building and the grounds, lawyer Herman Vermaak, said he was also suing the school for outstanding rent and service charges.

He is owed more than R700 000 in rent, utility bills and damages, he claimed.

Staff who worked at the school at various stages since its establishment in 2012 have also said they were not paid for months at a time, and sometimes not at all.

Andiswa Mlonyeni was brought in as a human resource assistant, but ultimately had to take over the role of HR manager after her boss was fired.

She was forced to tell teachers that their pay cheques were unavailable, and when she too was not paid, realised there was something wrong, she said.

Mlonyeni claimed stationery was not bought at the beginning of the year, and if teachers complained about their pay or the lack of resources, they were immediately dismissed.

This was the case for former teachers Trust Moyo and Abiola Oladeji, who said they were both fired for asking about their salaries.

One former cleaning supervisor said he was made acting vice-principal after the incumbent was fired, and was then himself relieved of his duties when he enquired about his pay cheque.

This has prompted several cases being lodged with the CCMA, but some teachers said Fourie had failed to turn up at some of the proceedings.

The principal’s whereabouts seems to be a mystery.

Earlier this week, receptionists at first said they had not heard from her in weeks. Attempts to contact Fourie were unsuccessful, with several of the numbers registered in the principal’s name no longer in service.

The vice-principal, JJ van Aarde, said Fourie was in hospital.

He refused to comment on the allegations, saying his lawyers were busy drafting a statement on the school’s activities. “Until then we are not allowed to speak with anybody,” Van Aarde said. He would not say which law firm was representing the school.

shain.germaner@inl.co.za

The Star


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