Sunday, June 5, 2011

8 babies removed from care home

June 4 2011

Jenny Berger
Just days ago, Jenny Berger’s care home in Pinelands was filled with the cries and laughter of 11 babies for whom she provided a temporary home. But on Friday, as she handed over the last eight babies in her care, an unfamiliar quiet settled over the house. 

On Tuesday, two of the babies died in their cots at the Building Blocks temporary foster home. Another was returned to her father on Friday. 

The provincial Department of Social Development removed the eight remaining children – some toddlers, others babies not more than a few months old – late on Friday. They were taken to a place of safety in Langa, said Bruce Oom, spokesman for the acting MEC for Social Development, Bonginkosi Madikizela. 

Tears streamed down Berger’s face as she handed over the babies, who were swathed in blankets. Among them was “Baby Miracle”, a child who was pulled alive from a manhole near Killarney Gardens by truck driver Desmond Mutengo last October. At the time, the infant was only days old. 

Several of Berger’s friends and family turned up to support her, including Victoria Lockwood, former wife of Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer. 

Police told media on Thursday that the two babies had died of natural causes, apparently just 45 minutes apart. But this was contradicted on Friday by Madikizela, who insisted the babies had died of “unnatural causes”. 

                              MEC for Social Development, Bonginkosi Madikizela.

This infuriated Berger, who said the pathologist who’d performed the autopsies had described the cause of death as “undetermined”. Further tests would have to be carried out. 

Berger said that after receiving legal advice, she and London-based Building Blocks chairwoman Kim Killeen had decided to release the remaining eight babies from their care pending the outcome of these tests. 

“Because they say they have a document indicating unnatural death, we have decided to advise Social Development to come and remove the children,” said Berger. 

“It’s going to kill me; it’s going totally destroy me, but I have to do it in the light of all the stories they’re making up. Every hour there’s a different story.” 

Social workers tried to remove the babies late on Thursday night, but were deterred by police.
In a statement on Friday, Madikizela said the babies were removed “as a precautionary measure pending finalisation of the police investigation”. 

“The causes of the deaths are under investigation and will remain so until the post-mortem findings have been made by the pathologists,” she said. 

“That said, the sudden and unexplained deaths of these infants necessitates that the department take precautionary steps in the best interests of the babies and young children in temporary safe care still at Building Blocks.” 

She said an inquiry had been launched into the conduct of the police officers who thwarted social workers’ attempts to remove the babies on Thursday night. 

The care home has been in operation for just over three years, with more than 80 babies passing through its doors. 

Berger also has three foster children in her care, who have remained with her. 

Meanwhile, the Manenberg Health Committee has responded to concerns raised by the community over two children who died after being vaccinated at the local Manenberg Clinic this week. 

Community members were so angry after the deaths that a crowd gathered at the clinic and police had to be called. 

In a statement, the committee said: “Due to a staff shortage at the clinic the staff is under pressure. 

“Complaints about staff attitude and service are dealt with by the health committee and raised with the facility manager immediately. If the issue is not dealt with, we take it to higher level. 

“However, the attitude of some community members towards the staff at the clinic cannot be excused. 

“Staff are sworn at on a daily basis. African nurses are constantly being called the K-word. For this reason, nurses are reluctant to come and work at this clinic,” said the statement. 

R30m licensing funds scam boils over

June 5 2011

More than R30 million of the Joburg licensing and traffic department’s revenue has disappeared in the biggest cash management scandal to ever rock the Joburg Metro Police Department. 

But more than three years after the missing millions saga was first uncovered no criminal charges have been laid against the culprits. 

Johannesburg metro police chief 
Chris Ngcobo addresses the media on corruption

Instead, the JMPD commissioned forensic auditors Nkonki Consulting last year, who could only point fingers at nine licensing staffers, among them cashiers whose combined liability in the scandal amounts to less than R1m. 

Nkonki Consulting was appointed by JMPD chief Chris Ngcobo to probe, among others, staff members involved in possible misappropriation of funds, financial misconduct and to quantify the irregularities. However, in many of their findings against the identified staff, the forensic auditors did not recommend any criminal action due to lack of “any prima facie evidence” of defrauding the JMPD. 

According to documents handed to Nkonki auditors, which the Saturday Star has seen, the problem of a lack of bank reconciliations for both traffic and licensing is a long-standing one. 

In one letter submitted to the auditors as evidence, Anton Klarbach, deputy director of finance at JMPD, wrote to his subordinate warning that more than R30m had not been accounted for on the licensing bank statement. 

In their progress report last September on the money totalling over R853 000 linked to the nine employees, Nkonki investigators established that this had been due to transactions that could not balance. The shortages were due to either cash disappearance, the use of fraudulent cheques and cloned bank cards used to register vehicles at Sandton, Loveday and Rosettenville licensing centres. 

The drama of the JMPD’s missing millions scandal came to a head this week when the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) wrote to new Mayor Parks Tau and the city manager requesting them to appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the licensing saga. 

Samwu has charged that disciplinary processes against nine of its members, two of whom won their cases on appeal, were designed to “cover up management’s ineptitude towards the dysfunctional licensing department”. 

Only one employee implicated in the Nkonki report has been found guilty by the JMPD’s internal disciplinary process and fired while another has been demoted to a junior position, according to the union. 

The remaining workers out of the nine charged are still fighting their cases internally. 

“The losses of money in the licensing department amounted to millions of rands over a period of years with senior management aware of the status quo,” said Samwu’s strike organiser Jack Mokalapa. 

“The appointment of Nkonki was a feeble cover-up exercise... which could not explain the whereabouts of millions still unaccounted for.” 

Mokalapa said the money that had not been accounted for could now be more than R50m, depending on who you spoke to. 

Samwu has threatened an indefinite strike action if the city does not meet its demand over the licensing money saga and other labour issues it said were not addressed by JMPD management. 

Blankets, pots and bundles of cash - lots of it

Jun 5, 2011

New fiancée joins queue to wed Ngema - yes you read this right! joins the queue!!!

Blankets, pots and bundles of cash - lots of it - were just some of the gifts given playwright Mbongeni Ngema's fiancée, radio personality Nonhlanhla Buthelezi, at their traditional engagement ceremony in Dokodweni, northern KwaZulu-Natal, yesterday. 

More than 300 guests in designer outfits braved the scorching heat, arriving in luxury sedans to celebrate the couple's umkhehlo ceremony.

The ceremony is a rite of passage for a woman about to get married. 

According to custom, it is a sign to the community that the woman is now an adult and any prospective husband wanting to ask for her hand in marriage may approach. 

Guests were treated to a traditional menu consisting of samp, pap, freshly slaughtered meat, madumbi and sweet potatoes. 

The marquee was decked out in traditional decor. 

Guests included provincial welfare MEC Meshack Hadebe and Ukhozi FM sports presenter Ivan Hlophe. 

Buthelezi, 35, who had taken time off from her lunch-time show at Ukhozi FM to prepare for the ceremony, wore a traditional outfit which included genuine cow hide, a Zulu hat and a colourful beaded necklace and bracelets. 

Buthelezi, who performed a few traditional dances, was presented with a spear while relatives sang. She was accompanied at her parent's home by more than 100 young men carrying Zulu shields who sang and danced. 

Buthelezi is one of four women engaged to Ngema, creator of the award-winning musical Sarafina. 

He is due to marry Nompumelelo Gumede, Saleha Nxumalo and Cat Mpanza later this year. The dates of the ceremonies have yet to be announced. 

He was previously married to Pretoria State Theatre chief executive Xoliswa Ngema, actress Cebisile Mpungose, and former Generations actress Leleti Khumalo. 

Ngema, who has often attracted controversy with his plays and lifestyle, is divorced from all three. 

Buthelezi recently said she did not have a problem with being in a polygamous marriage because she respected culture and appreciated the way things were done in the past. 

"I believe that a man can have more than one wife and that is why I have no shame in entering into a polygamous marriage," she said.