The DA has accused the Hawks of harming the reputation of one of its ward councillors by fumbling a fraud investigation.
Ward 23 councillor Nora Grose handed herself over to the Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation team at the Atlantis police station on Thursday last week.
At the time, Hawks spokeswoman Zinzi Hani said that Ms Grose appeared at the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court on Thursday May 20 on charges of fraud and money laundering.
Ms Hani said the councillor was involved in a fraud investigation involving the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).
The Hawks said she allegedly colluded with the chairman of the South African Religious Civic Organisation (SARCO), Reuben Swartz, and together they allegedly took R170 000 meant for the distribution of food parcels in Atlantis.
Ms Hani said the funds were “reportedly funnelled to a church in Table View with links to some City officials”.
Ms Grose was released on R10 000 bail and expected to be back in court on Monday June 21.
That same Thursday afternoon, the City of Cape Town released a statement saying that it was working with authorities to recover unspent funding that was transferred from an Atlantis-based non-profit to a church.
The City also said it would give its full cooperation to the Hawks with regards to the arrest and charging of Ms Grose.
Mayor Dan Plato said: “The City’s legal services department have been working with authorities for some time. They advise me that, based on the information available to the City, this is not a criminal matter and that records show the funds went towards the intended purpose of food relief. All allegations regarding malpractice by a City councillor were investigated by the City of Cape Town’s Office of the Speaker and no malpractice was found.”
Brett Herron, the secretary-general of the Good Party, said his party had raised the alarm about an alleged money-laundering scheme involving the DA back in April.
He said the public should know what role DA councillors played in identifying recipients of humanitarian funding. “Residents should know how much money has been abused for party purposes in similar circumstances. And they should know what steps the DA and/or City is taking to prevent further abuse and hold implicated people to account,” he said.
Last Friday, Mr Swartz appeared at the Bellville Serious Commercial Crimes Court on charges of fraud and money laundering. He has been out on R10 000 bail following his arrest in December.
“It is alleged that Mr Swartz fraudulently claimed money from TERS from UIF valued at R 297 800 and used it for personal gain,” said Ms Hani.
“The investigation further revealed that Mr 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. At this stage, nothing links Councillor Grose to TERS funding as reported before.”
On Monday May 24, DA spokeswoman, Emma Powell, said the sudden “U-turn” by the Hawks had caused significant damage.
“The primary investigation under way by the Hawks concerns a case of TERS fraud allegedly committed by the director of a local civic organisation, SARCO. This same organisation was appointed to manage the procedural distribution of the sub-council’s Covid-19 grant-in-aid relief, prior to their director having been charged with TERS fraud.
During the course of the investigation, the Hawks appeared to have subjoined the procedural process that was followed in the distribution of the sub-council’s grant funding for Covid-19,” she said.
Ms Powell said this “media blunder” had caused significant confusion in the public domain.
“As the constituency head for Durbanville, Blaauwberg and Atlantis, I will simply not allow the hard-earned reputations of any of our councillors to be impaired on the basis of politically motivated smear campaigns or incorrect reporting. Councillor Gorse will continue to provide her full co-operation to the Hawks as she has done when the matter was brought to her attention.”
Life Changers Church in Table View is the church in question but the church said it would not be commenting on the issue.
Ms Grose responded to Tabletalk, saying: “At the moment I won’t be able to engage but will in future”.
The Hawks’ Lieutenant Colonel Philane Nkwalase told Tabletalk on Tuesday morning that they would be issuing a new statement later in the day that would provide clarity with regards to the charges against Ms Grose. He also said the statement would address the issue of the “U-turn” allegation by the DA.