Former Western Cape Social Development MEC Albert Fritz has denied issuing a letter of endorsement to embattled Al-Noor orphanage, saying the fake endorsement constituted "fraud and impersonation".
This as the provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) told the Weekend Argus it did not issue any letter in support of holiday programmes at the orphanage.
The Weekend Argus is in possession of one of the letters which were sent to a Dutch charity Stichting Projecten Zuid-Afrika (SPZA).
Al-Noor has been in the spotlight following allegations of fraud and corruption by its manager Amina Okpara. She was arrested on June 14 by the Hawks and may face further charges, including sexual offences.
It is alleged that Okpara redirected donor funds meant for daily operations of the centre into her personal bank account and used it for personal gain.
In a letter, DSD’s policy and framework unit endorsed the “extra-curriculum, holiday programme” at the orphanage. However, the department’s head of communications, Esther Lewis, said the unit did not exist within the department.
The letter, which contains many grammatical errors, states: “By direction of Mr Albert Fritz, provincial minister for Social Development. Our provincial ministry wish to attest our full support for the holiday programme effectively-being facilitated by Al-Noor Orphanage.”
It went on to state that the “department identified the extra curriculum programmes function hand in hand with the national development plan of South Africa”.
“We hereby pledge our continuous support for the programme in the future for Stitching Projecten-Zuid Afrika,” the letter stated.
“This document constitutes fraud and impersonation. I did not give direction as stated in the document, to support a holiday programme facilitated by Al-Noor Orphanage,” said Albert Fritz, who was the MEC of DSD at the time the letter was issued.
Furthermore, the department said it had no employee by the name of Siyanda Mbesi Mafilika, whose signature adorned the letter.
“There are no office managers in the office of the MEC - the only office manager positions in the department would be in the office of chief directorates and the letter is not dated,” said Lewis.
When Okpara was arrested three weeks ago, DSD found 35 children who were on the premises for the holiday programme. However, they were not documented and were removed and returned to their families.
The centre was shut down on June 12. Consequently, 17 children were removed from the building after allegations of sexual abuse.
SPZA, who had supported the orphanage for a number of years, said they would be handing over the documents to the Hawks in due process.
Orphanage manager Nkululeko Mboniswa said it will appeal against its de-registration next week.
Okpara will appear at the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for bail.