Durban - FOUR KwaZulu-Natal women, three of whom are government employees and the other an insurance consultant, allegedly colluded to defraud the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) through fictitious and dead beneficiaries
Nomvula Magwaza, from Newlands West, and Nobuhle Ntanzi, from Folweni, appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Friday with Post Office managers Nothando Magwaza (Nomvula’s sister, also from Newlands West) and Nokuphiwa Gcwensa, from Mahlabathini.
The Daily News recently reported on the arrests of Nothando Magwaza and Gcwensa.
On Friday all four applied for and were successfully granted bail.
Nothando Magwaza, 44, and Gcwensa, 29, were granted bail of R1500 each, while Nomvula Magwaza, 42, and Ntanzi, 33, were granted bail of R1000 each.
According to the charge sheet, it is alleged that Ntanzi, a social worker, forged or collected identity documents and information to start the process of making claims to Sassa.
She would apparently give the documents to Nothando and Gcwensa at Post Office branches to process.
They allegedly gave the relevant information to Magwaza’s sister, Nomvula, a Sanlam insurance consultant, who apparently made withdrawals and shared the money with the rest of the team.
They are accused of defrauding Sassa of an estimated R900 000.
The State did not oppose the bail application. Magistrate Melanie de Jager had granted the women bail on condition that they each report to their nearest police stations once a week and that they did not contact their colleagues at the Department of Social Development and the Post Office because they were potential witnesses.
Reacting to their employee’s arrest, Sanlam Sky Individual Life communications manager Elmi Kemp said Sanlam subscribed to a zero-tolerance approach where financial crime and unlawful conduct was concerned.
“This applies to all employees, partners and associates. As a business we would ensure that the necessary steps are taken to investigate the matter thoroughly.
"If we find an employee, partner or associate was involved in a financial crime or unlawful act, we will take the relevant action in line with the law and our own internal policies.
“We take these matters very seriously and are committed to protecting the well-being of our clients,” said Kemp.
Social Development Department spokesperson Mhlabunzima Memela said the department was shocked that government officials allegedly worked with private sector employees to rob the government.
“A social worker is supposed to have morals. Social grants are there to help vulnerable people to survive. If there are people who are abusing or stealing from these services, harsh punishment must be put in place.
"We will follow-up on this case and if the suspects are found guilty justice must be served and the law must make an example out of them,” said Memela.
The IFP called for harsh punishment on corrupt officials defrauding social grant recipients.
“We are pleased that more suspects were arrested. We encourage the investigation to be extended to more departments, including Sassa, to root out people who are stealing from the poorest of the poor,” said Les Govender, IFP KZN spokesperson on social development.
“We urge our courts to take this matter seriously by showing no mercy on corrupt officials,” he said.
DA KZN social development spokesperson Elma Rabe said the DA was pleased by the arrests and called for the harshest punishment to be considered.
“It is sickening to think that anyone could stoop so low. Social grants are set aside for those that really do require assistance to survive. Sadly, this isn't the first, nor will it be the last arrest, but the Department of Social Development must work hand-in-hand with the Department of Community Safety and Liaison in KZN to deal with thieves decisively,” said Rabe.
KZN police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula welcomed the arrests and encouraged investigators to ensure that the suspects faced the full might of the law.
“We are faced with a challenge where elderly people are robbed, by those that are overcome by greed, of their pensions which they are dependent on.
"The government is also being defrauded through dishonest activities by officials in government departments.
"More arrests are expected as we crack down on fraudsters and we hope that these arrests will curb such corrupt activities,” said Jula.