The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [the Hawks] disclosed that Lesiba Samuel Modiba, the 45-year-man arrested for allegedly stealing Covid-19 funds was on Tuesday released on R3 000 bail.

Hawks spokesperson in Gauteng, Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu, said “A 45-year-old suspect linked to a R150 000 Covid-19 UIF [Unemployment Insurance Fund] alleged theft has been granted R3 000 [bail] by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court.

“The money was intended for Cape Town-based pre-school, Durbanville Kleuter Academy”.

It is alleged that Lesiba Samuel Modiba received the UIF relief funds, meant for the pre-school, in May.

Mulamu also said “The Serious Corruption Investigation [unit of the Hawks] in Pretoria was alerted of the theft and after conducting a thorough investigation, Modiba was arrested in Hammanskraal on Monday. He is expected back in court on 18 November 2020. Investigation continues.”

Earlier this year, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi warned employers who have received UIF Covid-19 temporary employer/employee relief scheme benefits from government but are not passing on the money to workers.

Nxesi said “I want to categorically state that this is inhumane and employers who are withholding funds meant for workers must immediately release payments. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has brought economies of countries to their knees”.

“Workers are the worst affected by this inevitable eventuality. The worst thing you can do as an employer is to withhold funds meant for workers.”

Nxesi described this practice as “callous and insensitive” to the needs of workers, especially when many people are facing financial distress due to the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus in South Africa.

The Department of Employment and Labour said the UIF has been inundated with calls from workers complaining that employers have not paid them their benefits despite having received funds on behalf of the employees.