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Sassa fraud suspects out on R30k bail

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Two alleged kingpins in a social grant scam involving the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), were released on R30 000 bail each, when they appeared in court on Thursday

Neliswa Msimango, of Durban North, and Nombuyiselo Sigcua, of Umtata in the Eastern Cape, launched a bail application in the Bellville District Court before magistrate Ronald Rieckert.

Bail judgment was handed down in the late afternoon, after the testimony of former Scorpions officer Colonel Kobus Roelofse.

Roelofse told the court he was one of a team of detectives who had investigated the fraud, and that the team needed an extra four months to complete the investigation.

He said both women faced multiple counts of fraud and corruption and that he believed that the State had “quite a strong case”.

He added: “Both women are looking at a long prison sentence if convicted.”

He said the investigation started late last year, after information that people were approaching Sassa officials for fraudulent grants.

An under-cover operation was set up, with consent from the authorities.

The idea was to identify the syndicate members, and in the course of the operation an agent was approached by both women, who had copies of forged identity documents.

“They wanted the false IDs captured on the Sassa system, with themselves as beneficiaries,” he said.

He said one of the fake IDs had a photograph of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

He said the syndicate targeted Sassa’s old age grant system, as beneficiaries received payments until death, whereas applications for disability grants had to be renewed regularly.

He said Sassa cards were given to Msimango in Cape Town, while withdrawals were made by Sigcau in Durban.

Msimango told the under-cover agent that she had been unemployed since 2001, and that this was how she made her living, he said.

Roelofse was asked by prosecutor Simon Leope what his attitude was to the release of the two accused on bail.

He said bail was “inappropriate in the circumstances”.

Cross-examined by advocate Fanie Slabbert, for Msimango, Roelofse said he did not know what sentence would be imposed on her if found guilty, “but I expect at least 10 years”.

Slabbert seemed taken aback, and said Roelofse was “just saying anything that entered his mind”.

Roelofse said that was not true.

Both women were warned to return to court on September 9, as part of their bail conditions.

They have to report to the police three times a week – Msimango to the police at Durban North, and Sigcua to the police at Umtata, in the Easter Cape.

The magistrate warned them to produce their identity documents to the police when reporting, “to prove that you are not the wife of the deputy president”.

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