Cape Town - The DA and City of Cape Town municipality have now decided not to comment further on the case involving one of their councillors as more evidence comes to light.
In the latest development, Life Changers Church in Table View, which received Covid-19 humanitarian food relief, has returned some of the funds to the City of Cape Town.
The Weekend Argus has seen a proof of payment of R54 328.06 and it is not clear why the money was paid back. The church was used by Mayor Dan Plato to launch his mayoral campaign and it is alleged that Covid relief funds were used to fund his campaign.
Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose is out on R10 000 bail after she appeared at the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court last month for alleged misappropriation of funds.
Initially, the Hawks announced that Grose was charged with fraud and money laundering together with Atlantis pastor and chairperson of a non-governmental organisation, South African Religious Civic Organisation (Sarco) Reuben Swartz.
He is accused of fraudulently claiming R297 800 from Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) and used it for personal gain.
Further investigation revealed that Swartz received up to R170 000 from the City’s humanitarian fund, which was meant to provide food parcels in Atlantis, but instead, the money was allegedly channelled to a church in Table View with ties to Councillor Grose and Plato.
The Weekend Argus can reveal that Sarco received R186 697 from the mayoral fund despite only qualifying and approved to receive R14 919.
In emails seen by the paper, Grose then requested that R171 778 be transferred to Life Changers’ account leaving Sarco with the R14 919 they qualified for.
Swartz says he was suspicious when he was asked to make the transfer.
“I then decided to give councillor Grose access to the organisation’s bank account so she can make the transfer herself. I am not sure if she made the transfer from her personal (account).
’’What I am guilty of is giving her access to the bank account and not for fraud or channelling the funds.”
Swartz said he had a close relationship with Grose up until his arrest last year.
“Councillor Grose used to come and eat with me in my house. I never knew she could use me for something like this.”
Part of the funds were allegedly used to fund Plato’s campaign when he wanted to be elected in the DA congress. Approximately R14m from the Mayor’s Relief Fund, which has been spent to support a major food relief drive.
The Weekend Argus sent questions to mayor Plato, Grose and Emma Powell of the DA. They were asked why R186 697 was deposited to Sarco’s account, why did Grose request R171 778 be transferred to Life Changers and if that constituted money laundering.
They declined to comment and referred all questions to Speaker Felicity Purchase who only responded to one question that confirmed that the municipality is covering the legal costs of Grose.
Powell, when asked on social media why they have now decided not to respond to questions regarding the case, said they will not be trialled by the media and that the matter is sub-judice (in court).
Swartz also said the DA is using the Ters case to hide councillor Grose’s case.
“The Ters case is separate from the food relief case and I will answer for that one. My lawyers and the Hawks are busy tracking the accountant who tricked me into submitting names of unemployed people to receive relief through my organisation.”
He said part of the R297 800 is still in Sarco’s account after the funds were frozen by the Hawks.
“I used some funds to buy tyres for my car which I use for social outreach. I also used some funds for the community.”
The Weekend Argus has now established that Life Changers has paid back R54 328.06 of the R171 778 to the City of Cape Town.
When called to answer why was this money paid back, pastor Mark van Pletsen of Life Changers was abrupt and said: “You always write rubbish and you can continue doing so. Ask the Hawks what is happening not me. Please delete my number.”