Graft link to missing NGO deputy director Noma Kunene

09 March 2018 - 11:53
By Zoe Mahopo
Noma Kunene was embroiled in a tiff with provincial officials.
Noma Kunene was embroiled in a tiff with provincial officials.

People close to a Gauteng woman who vanished mysteriously after trying to blow the whistle on alleged money laundering within government, say they also fear for their safety.

Friends and relatives of Noma Kunene, 41, a social worker, have been engaged in a desperate search for her since she disappeared from her Krugersdorp home 10 days ago.

Kunene, who was the deputy director at an NGO called A Re Ageng Social Services (ARA), had apparently played a key role in trying to expose fraudulent behaviour by officials at the Gauteng department of social development involving R10-million.

Her disappearance was preceded by months of alleged instances of harassment being suffered by NGO staff members.

Yesterday, Kunene's colleague and NGO founder Mpule Thejane-Lenyehelo said she had to move from her house because of the constant harassment and intimidation.

"I had to move because I don't feel safe anymore," Thejane-Lenyehelo said.

She said they believed Kunene's abduction was connected to their organisation's struggle with the provincial department regarding funds that were mysteriously transferred into the NGO's account 15 months ago.

Thejane-Lenyehelo said their woes started when they agreed to assist the department by temporarily holding funds for a facility called Life Recovery Centre because that organisation had not been registered. She said the department paid R13-million into the ARA account, which she later transferred to the other NGO's account as per agreement.

Thejane-Lenyehelo said they were shocked when a further R10-million was paid into the ARA account from an unknown bank account.

She said they received phone calls from officials in the department who demanded for the money to be paid back to the department.

Thejane-Lenyehelo said this was when she started suspecting that her NGO was being used by corrupt officials to make dodgy transfers.

She said their struggle continued, resulting in the department dragging the NGO to court and freezing their accounts. "Now they want to shut us up. We will talk until we die," she said.

Spokesman at the provincial department, Mbangwa Xaba, released a statement saying they had nothing to do with Kunene's disappearance.

Mbangwa said social development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza had assured the provincial legislature that her department had stopped the conduit payment system.

"She pleaded with the police to provide information on the mysterious disappearance of Ms Nomawethu Kunene, a deputy director at the West Rand-based A Re Ageng," Mbangwa said.

Thejane-Lenyehelo described Kunene as a dedicated worker who would never abandon her work and family without explanation.

Kunene's niece Andisiwe Nyembezi said the family was struggling to cope.

"We really hope the police will do their outmost best to find her. This has been a stressful time for us," she said.

Lieutenant Kay Makhubele said: "At the moment, we are investigating and we're appealing to anyone with any information to contact the police."

Patience Mathenjwa, a member of the NGO's board, said she too feared for her safety as she was being followed by unknown cars.