Eastern Cape cops blow fake travel and funeral permit scams open

Two people, aged 30 and 40, were arrested when one of them was found with fake documents at a roadblock.
Two people, aged 30 and 40, were arrested when one of them was found with fake documents at a roadblock.
Image: Elvis Ntombela

Mnquma municipality mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo on Friday opened a criminal case at the Butterworth police station after his signature was allegedly forged and used in fraudulent travelling permits.

This comes amid an announcement by the provincial government over the weekend that a man allegedly behind the issuing of fake funeral permits in the Western Cape,  paving way for hundreds of taxis to recently ferry people to the province, has been nabbed by provincial police.  

The Mnquma fraud case was opened after two people, aged 30 and 40, were arrested when one of them was found with the fake documents at a roadblock.

One of these men was travelling from East London towards Butterworth when he was arrested at the Kei Bridge checkpoint on Thursday morning.

It is alleged that he led police to the second suspect, who was nabbed in his spaza shop in the Butterworth CBD.

Police have confirmed the arrests, and that the two suspects were released after they each paid a R5,000 admission of guilt fine.

Ncetezo suspects that the issuing of the fake permits could be an inside job within his own municipality.

“If indeed the investigation reveals that this is an inside job, that person will be held accountable and dealt with accordingly.

“On top of the criminal charges of fraud and corruption that I have opened, I will exercise other legal options that are available to me against whoever has brought my name into disrepute through the unauthorised use of my signature,” said Ncetezo.

He said it looked like a money-generating scheme.

“But it is also possible that it is a political smear campaign which is aimed to destroy my image and reputation. If that is the case, I will deal with this matter at a political level.”

Mnquma municipal manager Silumko Mahlasela swiftly instituted an internal probe after the suspects said they bought the forged documents from a municipal official at a cost of R200 each.

Mahlasela said the municipality had a policy of zero tolerance towards fraud and corruption.

“Together with hardworking and honest officials, we will root out all those whose primary preoccupation is dragging our good name through the mud. Our law enforcement officials have been deployed to all areas to ensure people comply with the provisions of the national lockdown,” said Mahlasela.

There was a possibility that there could be more fraudulent permits circulating, he added.

“Possibly there are more fraudulent permits bearing our logo out there. We advise anyone who bought a fraudulent permit to immediately alert the municipality or face the full consequences of the law.”

* Eastern Cape transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe has hailed as a major breakthrough the arrest of a taxi owner believed to be behind fake funeral permits that saw an influx of minibus taxis ferrying passengers between the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape amid the national lockdown.

The arrest was made by a team of Eastern Cape detectives from the commercial crimes unit over the weekend, with the suspect expected to face charges of fraud.

According to a statement from Tikana-Gxothiwe's department, investigations reveal that the accused would organise the fake funeral permits using one death certificate, saying all the travellers were attending the same funeral.

“The movement of people from province to province, especially from the Western Cape, has been one of the province’s biggest headache as it battles with an ever-rising number of Covid-19 cases.

“We salute our detectives for the great work they have done in arresting the suspect, and more importantly, in the national and global fight against the transmission of Covid-19,” said Tikana-Gxothiwe.

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