The City of Cape Town has been accused of unlawfully paying the legal fees of a councillor who is facing money-laundering charges.
Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose is charged with money laundering. She is accused of funnelling R170 000, meant for the distribution of food parcels in Atlantis, to Life Changers Church in Table View.
She was granted R10 000 bail in the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court on May 20. She appeared again in the court on Friday June 25, and the case was postponed to Friday July 30.
Initially the Hawks said Ms Grose had been charged with fraud, alongside Reuben Swartz, the chairman of the South African Religious Civic Organisation, for an allegedly fraudulent claim of R297 800 from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).
However the Hawks later said they had made an error by implicating Ms Grose in the Ters fraud charge (“DA slams Hawks for ’U-turn’ on councillor’s arrest,” Tabletalk, May 26).
Mr Swartz faces separate charges relating to the alleged misappropriation of R170 000 received from the City for food aid. It is this money that Ms Grose is alleged to have laundered through the church.
A day before Ms Grose’s latest court appearance, Good Party secretary-general Brett Herron went public with a document he claimed was a bank statement showing Life Changers Church had “quietly” paid back to the City R54 328.06 of the R171 778 in Covid food-relief funds, on Friday May 21, at 3.52pm.
“The money was evidently returned to the City last month, the day after Cape Town Sub-council chairperson and senior DA councillor Nora Grose’s arrest and court appearance,” said Mr Herron.
“A few days prior to Grose’s arrest, I wrote an open letter to mayor of Cape Town Dan Plato, who happened to launch his bid to represent the DA as its mayoral candidate in October’s election at Life Changers Church. I asked the mayor to come clean on allegations that the City and some of its senior councillors were under investigation by the Hawks for fraud and money-laundering related to the illegal diversion of Covid-19 food relief funds to a church in Table View. The City immediately responded with a statement claiming that my letter was ‘misinformation’ and that, ‘all funds spent on humanitarian relief are fully audited, allocated 100% in line with the City’s supply chain process’,” he said.
Tabletalk asked Mr Herron where he got the “proof of payment“ and whether he had sent it to the authorities. He would not divulge his source and said he had made the document public on social media instead of going to the authorities with it because the City had promised to help the Hawks with their investigation.
“This would include handing over documents, emails, internal correspondence and financial documentation such as receipt of the repayment from the church.”
When Tabletalk phoned Life Changers Church, a man who would not identify himself said that the church would not be commenting until after the course case.
The mayor’s office and the City did not respond to Tabletalk’s questions about Mr Herron’s allegations, but DA spokeswoman Emma Powell said in a statement that the court last Friday had indicated that the defence’s request for a full withdrawal of the matter would be considered should the final investigation not be completed by July 30.
“This is a result of Councillor Grose having been arrested on an ’expeditious basis’, with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) having noted on the date of her arrest that their investigation was already at ’an advanced stage’,” Ms Powell said.
“The City of Cape Town has repeatedly noted that its internal investigations have accounted for all funds and that these funds were indeed spent on the intended food-relief program. Any unspent monies that were frozen at the time the investigation commenced have now been returned.
“Councillor Grose will continue to cooperate with the authorities as this investigation continues, and the DA looks forward to a swift resolution of this matter.”
While the City did not respond to Tabletalk’s request for comment, the Weekend Argus reported that Speaker Felicity Purchase confirmed that the municipality was paying for Ms Grose’s legal bill.
Mr Herron said that this was an “unlawful abuse of public funds” and he likened it to the state incurring the costs for former president Jacob Zuma’s legal fees.
According to Mr Herron, the City claims Section 109A of the Municipal Systems Act permits this, but that section of the act only applies when legal action arises from the councillor performing their duties or exercising their powers.
Sarco could not be reached for comment by the time this issue went to print.