'Samwu members stole R3.5m as they believed it was manna from heaven'
This was revealed by Thomas du Toit, the manager of expenditure at Rand West municipality, who testified yesterday against SA Municipal Workers'Union (Samwu) members accused of embezzling money from an employees’ year-end bonus fund.
Jackey Tshabalala, who worked in the municipality’s payroll section, Letitia Nonkosi Mafuta and Anna Nomakhedu Mdange, appeared in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 17 theft charges.They allegedly siphoned more than R3.5m from a progressive fund which was meant to bring Christmas cheer to staff.
According to Du Toit, the alleged theft crippled the municipality to a point where critical service delivery projects had to be shelved and overtime payments stopped.
Mdange, a general worker at Rand West, was the only one still employed by the municipality. All three were Samwu-appointed signatories of the Abasebenzi Christmas Club.
Seventeen different “theft” transactions were allegedly made from November 2017, which recorded the largest transfer amounting to almost R1.4m, and ended in August 2018.
Du Toit, prosecutor Frans Mhlongo’s first witness yesterday, said that on September 12, 2018, following repeated attempts to get bank statements for Abasebenzi’s account, the accused “refused” to divulge details of the fund.
“At the September 12, 2018 meeting, we wanted to know how much was left in the Abasebenzi account to return the money to the municipality. There was no indication whether there was still money in the account.
“The mood of the meeting was very friendly. I even asked Ms Mafuta why they took the money, and she just said that she thought it was manna from heaven,” Du Toit testified.
Asked by the prosecutor why it took more than a year for the municipality to detect the alleged theft, following a bank reconciliation process in September 2018, Du Toit said it was Tshabalala’s job, as someone who worked at payroll, to spot anomalies.
“He (Tshabalala) received all the deduction schedules - he was our control there. He sent out all the scheduled (deductions), including medical aids and Unemployment Insurance Fund.”
All three accused said yesterday they understood the charges before them and pleaded not guilty to all 17 counts.
Their legal representative asked for a postponement until April in order for him to study the voluminous evidence, after which the cross-examination of Du Toit’s testimony could begin.
The case will resume in April.