The family of Nomawethu Kunene, the woman who went missing after exposing alleged corruption at the Department of Social Development, say they are left in the dark. Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - The family of Nomawethu Kunene, the West Rand woman who went missing after blowing the whistle on alleged corruption in the Gauteng Department of Social Development, say they have been left in the dark about the investigations into her disappearance.
Neither the police nor the department have updated them regarding the case, and with each day that goes by, it’s emotionally draining, the family say.

“How does one find peace and closure when you don’t even know where they ended up,” said Andisiwe Nyembezi, Kunene’s niece.

Kunene, deputy director of the non-governmental (NGO) A Re Ageng Social Services, went missing on February 26, and was last seen by a neighbour in the complex she lived in leaving that morning.

She was believed to have revealed information on an alleged incident of corruption involving a mysterious cash deposit of R10million into the NGO’s account.

Of this amount, R5m went missing soon thereafter, raising suspicions of possible collusion.

The incident was claimed to be linked to officials at Gauteng’s Social Development Department.

A case of a missing person was opened at the Randfontein police station.

On the evening Kunene was last seen, another neighbour who lived close to her house, heard a bang in her apartment at about 10pm.

In the early hours of the morning, the neighbour heard a car reversing, “but she did not care to snoop around to see what had happened,” according to Nyembezi.

Kunene’s car and all other valuables were found untouched when Nyembezi went to check the next day.

“Close to three months later, we have no idea what has happened to my aunt. All we keep hearing from the police is that the matter is under investigation, nothing more.

“How does one move on or find closure not knowing what happened to their loved one?” asked Nyembezi. “Since my mother died, aunt Nomawethu was my mother. We were very close.

“It is difficult for me, you can only imagine how all this feels like for her children.

“We are going through a difficult time as a family,” she said.

She said the last time she heard from Kunene was when they spoke on the phone on February 27.

When I called her at about 5pm, all her phones were not going through. I panicked and called her colleague to ask if they saw her at work and they said ‘she wasn’t’ at work. When I went to her flat, the security gate at the front door was locked but the door was open. The sliding door, however, was open but she was not there,” she said.

“Makazi (aunty) wouldn’t just switch off her phone like that and just leave her children. This situation is not normal,” Nyembezi said.

Kunene was arrested in December last year over an apparent unrelated case.

“What we do know is that her life was in danger after the arrest.

“That changed a lot of things and she became very cautious about everything,” said Nyembedzi.

The family were never given a clear reason for the arrest as the charges kept changing from drugs to corruption to extortion and finally being tied to fraud, Nyembezi said. “We want justice for Nomawethu but most importantly we need to know whether she is alive or dead,” she added.

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubele denied they were holding back information about the case.

He said the case was at a sensitive stage, and they would communicate with the family once they had enough information to report.

In a statement last month, the department said it was shocked about the disappearing of Kunene.

“The GDSD is willing to co-operate fully in assisting efforts to find Kunene, but MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza has, as per her initiative on the A Re Ageng matter, asked for a full report on the status of investigations, including Kunene’s disappearance,” it said.

The Sunday Independent