Al-Noor Orphanage Picture: Facebook
Cape Town – Al-Noor Orphanage manager Amani Okpara applied for bail at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court yesterday following her first court appearance for fraud and corruption.

Okpara, 49, was arrested at the Woodstock facility on June 14 during a sting operation by the Hawks’ serious corruption investigation team together with the Department of Social Development. At the time of her arrest, the Hawks said there were 35 children in the building.

Her arrest and subsequent court appearance came days after the department removed 17 children from the centre in Woodstock after allegations of physical and sexual abuse 

Hawks spokesperson Philane Nkwalase yesterday said Okpara’s matter was postponed to June 25 for bail information.

“This follows the alleged charges of fraud and corruption regarding the donor funds that were redirected to a personal account and used for personal gain. These funds (were) meant for the operation of the centre,” said Nkwalase.

Facility manager Nkululeko Mboniswa said they were fully complying with the investigation process but felt victimised and bullied. 

“Al-Noor is not opposed to any of the allegations and the investigation thereof. We are ready to comply and co-operate. We are however against how the matter was handled by the department. 

“If allegations of sexual assault and abuse were made, why has no perpetrator or any of the staff at the orphanage been questioned yet as part of their investigation? 

“This means the children are still vulnerable with the perpetrator walking freely. None of these allegations have been tested,” said Mboniswa. 

Following Okpara’s arrest, Mboniswa said all children at the orphanage were removed from the facility and no children are currently housed there. 

“In the case of Okpara, these are totally different charges but at Al-Noor we will not shield anyone. 

“If she is guilty of these allegations then she is to face the full might of the law but then this process must be dealt with in a fair and just trial,” she said. 

According to Mboniswa, the children who apparently did not have records, were part of a community outreach holiday programme the facility hosted for a month, and the children and their families signed indemnity forms to attend. 

“When they (the department and Hawks) arrived here, they did not ask for any documentation. All these children’s details were available at our premises but were never asked for,” said Mboniswa. 

The centre is a registered non-profit organisation which has been operating in the area for nearly 20 years and cares for orphans and grossly impoverished children from communities across the province.

Cape Times