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News - Date: 13 August 2020
Written by: Anton van Zyl / Viewed: 1261
The Vyeboom Civic Association is very concerned about grants of R15,1 million made by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) to a Vyeboom-based non-profit organisation (NPO). None of the community structures have any knowledge about the grants, and where the money ended up is also not clear.
Two weeks, ago Limpopo Mirror carried the story of the two grants awarded to the Vyeboom Youth Development (VYD) NPO. The NPO, according to the NLC records, received R5 million in 2017 to stage a music festival. In August last year, the same NPO received R10,1 million in lottery funding, apparently for a sports-related project. Very little about the music festival is known, except that it apparently took place in Mpumalanga. No traces of any sports project in Vyeboom could be found.
The investigation into the grants was initially done by GroundUp, an online publisher specialising in social justice issues. When GroundUp traced Thakhani Theobald Mudau, a founding member of the NPO, he said that he had no knowledge of the NLC grants. Mudau, who is listed as chairperson of the NPO on the register of the Department of Social Development (DSD), said the organisation was dormant. Vyeboom is also non-compliant and has not filed statutory annual reports with the DSD’s NPO directorate since 2013.
After one of our reporters received an anonymous threat while making inquiries about Vyeboom, the Limpopo Mirror asked the NLC for details about the project and the people involved. The request was refused. The NLC’s spokesperson, Ndivhuho Mafela, advised the Mirror to file a Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) request. The NLC, however, has a notoriously bad record as far as PAIA requests are concerned and has refused several previous requests by both Limpopo Mirror and GroundUp reporters.
Local structures left in the dark
The Vyeboom Civic Association acts as an umbrella organisation in the area and is very involved with development projects. The spokesperson for the civic association, Mr Arnold Mulaudzi, expressed their concern about the NLC grants this week. He said they had only learnt about the funding when the report was published in the media two weeks ago.
According to Mulaudzi, the local civic organisation was instrumental in the formation of the VYD in 2011. This structure was meant to combat crime in the area and fight against the abuse of women and children. The NPO also focused on young people, trying to provide alternative activities to keep young people off the streets.
The NPO became dormant, especially after some of the office bearers moved to cities, where they found employment.
Mulaudzi says that, upon learning about the large sums of money that were apparently channelled via the NPO, they started to investigate. On Sunday, a stakeholder’s meeting was held in Vyeboom to discuss the matter. This meeting was attended by former office bearers of the NPO, as well as traditional leaders and members of the civic structures.
At the meeting, the founder members of the NPO all stated that they had no knowledge of the NLC funding. The former chairperson, TT Mudau, was present at the meeting and confirmed that the NPO was dormant.
Mulaudzi says that they had contacted the NLC’s spokesperson, Mafela, to get some clarity. Mafela did not provide them with any information but promised to get back to them within a week. They are still waiting for an explanation as to whom the NLC had funded and why this was done under the auspices of the Vyeboom NPO.
The mysterious grants made to the Vyeboom NPO also had an indirect impact on several other people in the area.
One such person is Nicolus Fhumulani Tshidumo. In September last year, he helped set up a Facebook page for VYD. He believed that the NPO was set up to cater for the needs of the local Vyeboom community and had no knowledge of any NLC funding. The NPO’s activities, according to Nicolus, include a vegetable farm and they provide meals for orphans.
He complained that he is now being dragged into a scandal that he has absolutely no knowledge of. In a WhatsApp message sent to Limpopo Mirror, he says that people are now linking him to the NLC funding, which is very unfair, because he knows absolutely nothing about it.
The NLC is under increasing pressure to root out corruption within the organisation. During the past three years, investigative reporters uncovered what appears to be hundreds of millions of rands in dodgy grants.
The Limpopo Mirror first exposed this in February 2018, when we followed the trail of a R27.5 million grant to a Vhembe-registered NPO, Denzhe Primary Care. What we found has turned into one of the biggest scandals that the NLC has had to deal with. Of the R27.5 million the NPO received – to build a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria – more than R20 million cannot be accounted for.
The NLC responded by launching their own investigations into the alleged irregularities, which apparently cleared the organisation of any wrongdoing.
In February this year, the NLC Board appointed an audit firm, Sekela Xabiso, to institute an independent investigation into allegations of improper use of funds intended for good causes. The outcome of this investigation has not yet been made public.
The Department of Trade and Industry, however, has instituted separate investigations into projects such as the Denzhe Primary Care grant. These investigations are expected to be completed in the next month.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.