Orphans hungry while councillor keeps papgeld

AN ANC ward councillor in Limpopo has been labelled a "thief" by her community after allegedly embezzling the foster care grants of three orphaned children.

Councillor Maria Mmola of GaRikhotso in the Greater Tzaneen municipality could face a jail sentence or suspension if she does not refund the money she allegedly stole from the children over the past five years.

Mmola was allegedly asked by the children's foster parent, Richard Ngobeni, to help him apply for the grants soon after their parents died.

"The children's parents died in 2000 and 2001 and their grants were approved in 2003," said Ngobeni.

"She claimed she was banking the money but failed to show us bank statements. We have tried in vain to convince her to show us the bank statements," he said.

He said Mmola could have embezzled about R80000.

Ngobeni had approached a social worker who had processed the grant application. The social worker too had since died.

Contacted for comment, Mmola confirmed she was receiving the grant on behalf of the children. She said she was told by the children's parents not to allow Ngobeni custody because he had 26 children and three wives.

"I am only doing what I was ordered to do by the children's parents," Mmola said.