Thousand hungry Elandskop families want their R20 back

2016-04-28 11:59
SA firms have a long way to go to realise mobile payments. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

SA firms have a long way to go to realise mobile payments. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Pietermaritzburg - Destitute families in Msunduzi’s ward 8 are on the warpath over hollow promises of food vouchers.

In January 2015, councillor Bethwell Ngcobo introduced the Ubuntu Trust Fund to the community of Elandskop.

At that time, impoverished ­households were promised monthly food parcels worth R600.

However, before they could access the food parcels, they had to fill in ­application forms that came with a price tag of R20.

A source in the ward committee, which was involved in the application process that took place at Vulindlela Hall in January 2015, said over 1 000 people had paid the R20 required over a two-day application period.

Now, around 16 months later, councillor Ngcobo, who introduced the company to the community, admits he did not do a background check on the company before taking the matter to the community. By his own admission, just one phone call had convinced him to “sell” the idea to the community.

However he maintains he was not aware people would have to pay R20 to apply.

Now having to explain to families who are growing impatient over their money, Ngcobo says he cannot get hold of the company representative who had initially contacted him.

“It [the call] just goes straight to voicemail, however I have recently spoken to another lady from the same company.

“I cannot divulge too much ­information because this matter has been reported to the police,” he added.

Although police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese confirmed Ngcobo had opened a fraud case in August last year, he said Ngcobo had allegedly promised to pay back all the residents who had paid the so-called joining fee.

Residents also alleged that Ngcobo promised at “numerous meetings” to reimburse those who had paid.

Ngcobo denies this and said the matter is being used by ­“others for political gain”.

Ngcobo said the company did not tell him there would be an application fee when they initially introduced the idea to him.

“I only heard about it when speaking to the community members.

“Nobody had mentioned it to me before that,” he said.

A community member who did not want to be named, said she had ­sacrificed her last R20.

“I thought the project would help those who are struggling to make ends meet. How can they steal from us?

“We are just trying to make sure that our children do not go to bed on empty stomachs yet we are being ­defrauded,” she said.

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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