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Port Elizabeth - A Nelson Mandela Bay municipal employee must be jailed for a long period of time because she stole over R1 million meant for the upliftment of an orphan who was entrusted to her, the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court heard on Friday. 

Mary Madaka, 50, who is the section head accountant for the metro's Assistance To The Poor Programme (ATTP), pleaded guilty to stealing money that was intended for Daniel Vanqa, the son of close family friends over whom she and her husband had guardianship. 

When Vanqa's father became terminally ill, he entrusted Madaka with his estate which was meant to be used for the upliftment and education of his only son. Vanqa, who is now 21, had lived with Madaka from the age of 15.

According to the indictment, Vanqa was the sole beneficiary of his father's estate, which had paid a monthly amount towards his upbringing and schooling. The young man was also meant to receive his father's provident fund at the age of 18, but Madaka had power of attorney and used the provident fund in an ABSA account for lavish home renovations in just six weeks.  

"A good mother doesn't steal from a child, be it by blood or otherwise," State prosecutor Ulrike De Klerk told the court on Friday in aggravation of sentence. 

De Klerk outlined in detail how Madaka went on a spending spree during April and May 2010, drawing money and swiping for lavish home decor items. On one specific day in April, she spent over R200 000 and made payments to Easy Life Kitchens to the tune of R51 000 and spent R42 000 on tiles for her bathroom, the court heard. 

"She drew every last cent and there was nothing left. This is the same woman who says she could not trust him with his own money.  

"She's an accountant, she's trusted by the metro. But what actually happened here is that Madaka wanted a fresh home and didn't want the debt that comes with it," said De Klerk. 

De Klerk said that Madaka's actions were intended to elevate her lifestyle and to beautify her surrounding. She said the crimes were not committed out of necessity.  

The State further argued that Madaka was so particular with her own personal budget but made no provision for a cash repayment to Vanqa. "What did she do? She did absolutely nothing. This is a serious breach of trust and she breached the trust of his parents too." 

"All she had to do was leave his money alone. If she left the money, he would have been better off and there would have been no court case," said De Klerk. 

Meanwhile, Madaka's defence, legal aid attorney Anlen Murray, argued that Madaka had pleaded guilty to the charges of theft and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. 

Murray said that Madaka was remorseful and signed over her property to Vanqa. However, the State argued that Madaka's promises of repayment was mere "lip service" and the Asset Forfeiture Unit had to get involved so that Vanqa could get compensated. 

Murray asked for a sentence of imprisonment which was wholly suspended. Magistrate Lionel Lindoor will pass down the sentence on October 17. 

African News Agency (ANA)