Johannesburg - One of the directors of a social welfare organisation doing business with the Gauteng government has been arrested following the alleged theft of more than R5million meant for the rehabilitation of drug addicts in the province.

Nomawethu Kunene, who is a director of Are Ageng Social Services, was arrested in a police trap in Pretoria on Friday following intense police crime intelligence surveillance.

The arrest came after a criminal case of theft was reported at the Randfontein police station in November last year, after the owner of Are Ageng made a report to senior officials of the Gauteng Department of Social Development that their bank account was hacked and an amount of more than R5m had been stolen.

On Saturday, Gauteng Commissioner of Police Lieutenant-General Deliwe de Lange vowed to oppose any bail attempt by the 41-year-old Kunene, who is expected to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said police were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence which could lead to the arrest of more suspects.

Are Ageng’s main director, Mpule Thejane-Lenyehelo, was outraged over the arrest.

Thejane-Lenyehelo said Kunene was arrested by a number of police in 10 vehicles. Speaking from Brooklyn police station in Pretoria yesterday, where Kunene was being kept in the holding cells, Thejane-Lenyehelo said her co-director was arrested because “she was a whistle-blower” in the theft of the R5m.

She also made claims against Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, saying the MEC was aware of the theft.

According to her, Mayathula-Khoza was allegedly trying to cover up the involvement of a senior official in her office as well as two regional officials of the department who are based in Krugersdorp. The name of the senior official as well as West Rand Social Development regional officials are known to The Sunday Independent but have been withheld as they could not be immediately contacted for comment. The senior official is one of the officials charged with violating the Public Finance Management Act following the recommendation of an investigation conducted by Premier David Makhura. Some of these officials are due to appear for their disciplinary hearings between tomorrow and Wednesday.

Mayathula-Khoza, through her spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba, said she would respond to all allegations against her after obtaining a full briefing from the police about the development in the theft.

The trouble started in November last year after the Department of Social Development had deposited R10m into Are Ageng’s account.

The cash was supposed to have been deposited into the account of Life Recovery, an NPO operating as a drug rehabilitation centre in Randfontein on behalf of the provincial government. Are Ageng was contracted as a third party to do payments to Life Recovery because the facility was not on the payroll of the provincial government.

Life Recovery rehabilitation centre had mainly treated victims who hailed from Toekomsrus outside Randfontein after their parents had complained to Makhura about the scourge of drug abuse by their children. 

The facility, previously known as Life Esidimeni, became available to treat these addicts in April last year, after the Department of Health moved thousands of psychiatric patients to illegal NGOs operating in Pretoria.

Sunday Independent