root - March 14, 2023

Bail granted to 16 accused in scholar transport corruption case

The accused have been charged with with 24 counts of fraud for embezzling R2,2m

Investigation initially launched in 2007

Peter Luhanga 

Bail of R3,000 has been granted to 16 people, including officials in the Western Cape Education Department, who stand accused of stealing R2,2m from the provincial scholar transport grant. 

They are part of a group of 17 who appeared in the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court on Friday 10 March following their arrest on Thursday 9 March. One of the 17 was released on a warning.

Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the 16 accused have been charged with 24 counts of fraud.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa stated that following months of “intricate investigative work into the unlawful expansion of the Western Cape education department learner transport grant”, SAPS Western Cape Commercial Crimes Investigations detectives executed 17 warrants of arrests in a “staggered fashion” in Paarl, Atlantis, Philadelphia and Wellington. 

Potelwa said 12 of the suspects were arrested in Atlantis, one in Philadelphia, one in Wellington, one in Kraaifontein, and two in Paarl. The suspects – nine women and eight men – included members of a school governing body in Atlantis.

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said in 2007, the department asked the provincial Forensic Investigation Unit to investigate suspected financial mismanagement at Atlantis Secondary School. 

Hammond said the matter was reported to the South African Police Service, and “we are pleased that the Western Cape Commercial Crimes Investigations have acted in this regard”.

She said eight of those arrested were employed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), five of which were staff at Atlantis Secondary School. A former education department staff member, as well as a number of former school governing body members, were also arrested. 

Atlantis community activist Ashley Poole said his wife attended Atlantis Secondary School, which was fondly known in the community as number one, as the school was the first high school in the area. Poole said the school dismissed classes at noon on Friday as staff left to support their arrested colleagues at the Atlantis Magistrate Court.  

He said the school had produced today’s leaders, athletes, and entrepreneurs, “some in good standing”.

“It [corruption] was well protected. As the saying goes ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We’re just speculating what has been uncovered…its corruption and self-enrichment. Obviously, there will be an investigation and lifestyle audit,” said Poole.

Ntabazalila said the case has been postponed to 24 April for a regional court date to be determined

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