Thursday, October 13, 2016

How Corruption between Policemen and Scorpions ruined my life

My Children

(Written by Investigative journalist Jack London for Noseweek, March 2007. All writing between brackets is mine)
Dianne Lang, known with affection as “Mamma Dee” in the townships around a small Karoo town for her work with abandoned and “at risk” children, has fled the country, following a blitzkrieg of raids by the Scorpions investigating the alleged misappropriation of more than R1m of donor funds from her award-winning project.  Before she took off for London on 6 February, Dianne, who has not been charged, claimed that the elite crime-busting unit was set on her by a police inspector in the Great Karoo town of Middelburg – after she rejected him as a lover.
Noseweek has also unearthed disquieting evidence that officers from the Scorpions were involved in an unauthorised investigation at 50-year-old Dianne for a full year before the probe was officially sanctioned.  During this time, speculation about her pending arrest swirled around Middelburg, causing her eventually to flee the town, her reputation in tatters.
“I have not misappropriated funds nor have I taken money from the children”, she says now.  “But my reputation is gone: I am already considered a criminal.”
On 5 (6)December last year, (2006) in “Operation Dynamite”, Scorpions teams from Eastern Cape headquarters in East London swooped on eight premises in Middelburg and Port Elizabeth, removing computers and financial records of her SA Care Trust, which operates as the Dianne Lang Foundation.  The search and seizure warrants state that there is reasonable suspicion that theft and/or fraud, as well as money-laundering and/or racketeering in contravention of the Organized Crime Act, has been committed against SA Care Trust from the beginning of 2003.
The Scorpions’ operational head in Pretoria, deputy director David Demerell, tells Noseweek that he signed the authorisation for a preliminary investigation, called a Section 28 (13), in July or August last year.  However, a year previously – in August 2005 – Dianne was tipped off that she was being secretly investigated by the unit.
In the apartheid years Dianne Lang was a card-carrying member of the ANC and a Black Sash activist.  More lately she was a counselling psychologist in Port Elizabeth until she decided to launch her own fight against the Aids pandemic, with a support centre for HIV positive residents of the townships clustered around Middelburg.  The town (population 44 000) lies in the Sneeuberg mountain range in the Great Karoo, surrounded by sheep and game farms. “Everyone knows everyone or is related to them,” says a local.
With a R15 000 donation from Vodacom, Dianne bought a tumbledown house in the middle of town for a support centre.  One night in the middle of winter she found three children on her doorstep, two 10-year-olds who had been gang-raped and a desperately ill three-year-old.  When she took them to the local offices of the department of social development she was told:  “These are street children; put them back on the street”.
A doctor in town told her the children would all die soon of Aids.  “I thought, well, I’ll keep them till they die.  At least I’ll nurse them and they won’t die hungry, cold and alone”.

Thus Dianne’s epiphany became the district’s needy children – HIV positive or not.  She sold her house in Port Elizabeth’s Blue Horizon Bay and after paying off the bond used the balance for start-up funds.  Today 35 children live at Care House, looked after by a staff of seven, plus volunteers from America and the UK.
However, the arrival of black children at the project’s five houses in the mainly-white centre of town, plus her crusading style, made waves.  The wife of a prominent resident came to her door and told her: “I’ve just come to warn you that if you don’t get these kaffirs out of town, we’re going to burn your houses down”.
Relations with the local office of the Department of Social Development have never been smooth, either.  “They are totally incompetent and there is no service delivery from them,” says Dianne.  “I’ve been a pain in their side”.
It seems that things were looking up when police Inspector Louis Jenner arrived on the scene.  Jenner and his “van partner”, Inspector Wollie Meyer, are both area representatives of the SA Police Union, and figures to be reckoned with in this small community.  Jenner became chairperson of Care House’s house committee, and threw himself enthusiastically into his charitable duties.
Running Care House, says Dianne, costs about R70 000 to R80 000 per month.  International donors have rallied to the cause, the largest being the UK’s Grace Foundation, with an on-going contribution of £2500 (presently around R35 000 per month).  Every six months Dianne would set off for the UK, to raise more ever-needed funds through lecture tours.  One trip raised a record R100 000.
In 2005 her work with needy children was recognised when she won the Clarins Most Dynamisante Woman of the Year Award.  She handed the R150 000 prize money over for the children.   But 2005 also brought turmoil in Middelburg as her relationship with Inspector Louis Jenner soured.  On April 5 there was a stormy visit by Jenner to her house, and the following day Dianne appealed for help in a “confidential report” to Middelburg’s acting police commander, Captain Flip Meiring.
After Jenner became chairperson of her house committee, wrote Dianne, he became very involved with Care House.  “At first I thought this was because he was chairperson, but later it became obvious that this was an excuse to spend time in my company”.   “I very soon realised that I was not dealing with a normal case of love, but one of obsession.  He said he was in love with me and could not help it”.  When she remonstrated, Jenner would ”get mad and slam the door”.
During one of these outbursts Dianne told her suitor that she no longer wanted him in her house and suggested that he resign from the house committee.  “He told me I was a dishonest and despicable person and that I would pay for what I had done to him”.
She had already fallen out with Jenner’s “van partner” and fellow SA Police Union representative colleague, Inspector Wollie Meyer.  She had trained his brother Neil Meyer as a home-based care worker, but after a string of verbal and written warnings started in February 2005 (falsifying attendance record, physically punishing children, dereliction of duty, gross insubordination, etc.), Neil Meyer was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing on 12 September.
Between that July and September there were three mysterious burglaries in Middelburg – one at Dianne’s house and two at the Care House office.  At the office, computers were taken, as well as trust files.  In the last break-in, on 25 September, messages were scrawled on the wall: “watch out bitch”, “easy to kill you bitch” and so on.  The culprits were never found.  The day after the 17 September second break-in, Neil Meyer’s brother, InspectorWollie Meyer, was saying: “the computers are already in East London (the Scorpions’ regional HQ) and the shit’s going to hit the fan in Middelburg”.
Dianne first became aware of the Scorpions’ covert – and, we now discover, unauthorised – operation during August 2005, when she was called to the office of the headmaster of Middelburg’s VDM school, Edgar Williams.  In an affidavit, Dianne says the headmaster “informed me that Inspector TC (Wollie) Meyer has been to see him to tell him that I was under investigation by the Scorpions”.   Rumours of Dianne’s imminent arrest swept through town.  She stuck it out for a year until last August – the time the preliminary investigation was finally authorised – when she returned to Port Elizabeth, leaving the children of Care House under the collective wing of manager Diana Jagers and the rest of the team.
It was also last August that Dianne discovered who had put the Scorpions onto her.  On 22 August she attended a meeting with Advocate Dale Robinson of the National Prosecuting Authority in Grahamstown, to discuss the status of a case she had opened against Inspector Louis Jenner for assault and crimen injuria.   With her was a private detective, former police brigadier Charlie Kemp whom Dianne had hired to help her.   Says Kemp:  “Jenner had made a statement about the allegations made against him by Dianne.  Advocate Robinson read the statement to us and in it Jenner said he had reported her to the Scorpions for embezzling funds”.
Will Manual is the Scorpions’ East London-based investigating officer in Dianne’s case.  Manual declines to discuss the investigation and will only confirm:  “It’s ongoing”.
In Middleburg, Inspector Jenner, married and father of three, is reluctant to talk about Dianne Lang, other than to confirm that he fell out with her.  “She decided she wants to operate the Care House on her own,” he says.   Jenner denies it was he who made the complaint against Dianne to the Scorpions.  “No. Who says so? Who gave you that information?,” he demands.  “From your statement,” we reply.  “Where did you get that information from?”
Why are the Scorpions involved in this case at all, when the amount allegedly involved is apparently not much more than R1m?  The unit’s guidelines say that fraud and economic offences should generally exceed R10m before they get involved.  Deputy director David Demerell explains that intake criteria may be relaxed when it comes to factors like international donor money and the poorest of the poor.  A fortnight before last December’s raids Demerell authorised the probe into Dianne to be upgraded to full Section 28 (1) status.
So what evidence has Will Manual and his colleagues at the Scorpions dug up on Dianne Lang?  A bunch of payments totalling more than R1m from the bank account of SA Care Trust into her personal account, we can reveal.  Dianne doesn’t deny it – and says there’s a simple explanation.  “I borrowed money on my overdraft and lent the foundation money.  Then when donations come in, I paid myself back.”

The trust’s unaudited accounts for the year ending 28 February 2005 – prepared by the Port Elizabeth accountancy firm of Buckingham and Associates – show that Dianne received a total salary that year of R35 000 (a frugal R2916 per month).  They also record that she was owed R418 778 for long-term loans.
Noseweek  has established that in July 2005, after a welcome R75 000 donation from “PNP Golf Day”, the trust’s bank balance stood at R288 925.  This, however, was depleted by a whopping R200 000 paid to Dianne in two amounts of R100 000 – on 26 July and 13 September – leaving the trust, after other minor disbursements, with just R78 966,78. (These payments were for personal loans to the trust).
Around that time Dianne’s managing director’s salary was increased to R16 000 per month – the amount she’s still drawing to this day.  SA Care Trust’s trustee and bookkeeper, Port Elizabeth businessman Stuart Irvine, says: “Since 2003 the trust has received in excess of R1m from Dianne in loans that she raised through her overdraft and house loan.  These have been repaid to her when we have funds.  She’s still owed more that R200 000.
At Buckingham & Associates, the Scorpions removed financial records and a computer as the firm’s Christine Hickman was finishing the trust’s 2006 accounts.  “I gave them a good dressing down,” says Hickman.  “They think Dianne’s embezzling funds, which is absolutely ridiculous”.
Vodacom and a Netherlands charity, Stichting Kinderpostzegels, have both withdrawn their support of SA Care Trust.  But the Grace Foundation’s £2500 per month is still trundling in.  And last November, a month before the raids, Dianne’s old enemy, the Department of Social Development, came up with a  one-off subsidy payment of R182 000.  (By this time Dianne was looking after 76 children)
SA Care Trust’s bank balance is now down to R70 000 – barely enough to get through last month.  “I’ve got to raise money, otherwise we’re going to close down,” says Dianne from the UK.   She plans to stay in London for at least a year.  “I feel despair: can I carry on any longer?  I feel anger: that the persons who have caused all this – and I know who they are – can get away with it.  I feel confusion: I know I was doing the right thing, saving the children, making a difference in their lives.  So why is it all so difficult?”
Down in Middleburg, plumber Hough Theron, who lives next door to Care House in Smid Street and takes its children fishing at nearby Grassridge dam, has a view on that.  “If Dianne hadn’t come in and made such a dramatic impact, perhaps people would have accepted her.  Her big mistake was to make an impact and they didn’t like that.  They said:  “For 10, 20, 30 years we’ve been doing it this way, why should we change?”   “Louis Jenner got absolutely carried away with her, but Dianne wasn’t interested at all”.

(On 17th December 2008, the Scorpions returned everything they had seized during their raid expect one computer and another computer was returned in pieces.  Together with the trust’s returned materials were the materials of two other companies which had obviously been under investigation.  One box of documents had gone mission.   A letter from the Scorpions admits to damaging the computers and makes a claim that when funds were available, the computers would be returned/replaced.  They would also look for the missing box of documents.  This never happened.   I believe that the severe stress I endured played a large part in my subsequent diagnosis of leukemia.  I have never been charged and I have never been notified of the outcome of the investigation.  However, the Scorpions inadvertently left the forensic audit amongst the returned documentation.  Over a five year period there was  R11.00 unaccounted for.  This could have been for anything from buy stamps and not recording it or giving children pocket money or money that they needed for school.   How much it cost the state to chase after me boggles the mind, but sadder still was the fate of the children.  They had lost their Mamma D and I had lost my children.  The home closed in 2010, leaving more than R400 000 in my loan account, when all the children were either returned to their parents, to foster parents or to the streets.  While many children have died during this time, many are now adults and we are still in contact.  A Christian group took over 7 foster children.  Will Manual is a private investigator, Jenner and Meyer have been promoted and Meiring has left the police force.  I was very traumatised by what had happened and this article is a very small part of what went down.  Amnesty International and the Helen Bamber Foundation for victims of political torture helped me to understand what had happened to me.  They also gave me insight into why the Scorpions behaved in the manner that they did.  It is all designed to put the “suspect” under extreme mental and emotional pressure.  I had not only lost all my money, but I had lost my sense of security and the foundation on which I had always lived.  The Helen Bamber Foundation  gave me back to me.  I have wanted to write the sequel to Saving Mandela’s Children, but the hurt is still fresh and I am not ready to go through the documentation to write another book of this nature just yet.)
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