Social Justice Coalition battling to stay afloat

Once one of Cape Town’s foremost social movements, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is battling to stay afloat in the midst of investigations into financial mismanagement by a top employee.

Former SJC general manager Xolani Klaas made a brief appearance at the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court on Tuesday. He faces charges related to fraud in excess of R730,000.

Last year, a GroundUp investigation reported that Klaas appeared to be using SJC funds to buy furniture, household appliances, luxury clothes, watches, groceries, and expensive technology.

Klaas was subsequently suspended and SJC staff laid criminal charges against him at Lingelethu West Police Station. In July, we reported that Klaas had returned some furniture, purchased using SJC money, to the organisation’s offices.

Alongside the court process, the SJC says, its internal investigation into Klaas’s actions is still underway. A handful of staff at the organisation are still keeping track of major matters they have been lobbying for, such as the fight for better sanitation and police resources in poor and crime-riddled communities. But they are no longer taking on new matters or providing other services they were known for.

SJC treasurer Zama Mthunzi told GroundUp there were “major delays” in the completion of the Klaas investigation because the SJC no longer has staff.

Mthunzi said: “The organisation has no money and can’t pay staff, so people have left. All funders have suspended sending monies owed to the SJC because Xolani’s fraud has broken funding agreements. They [funders] are awaiting the outcome of the investigation to determine if they will continue to fund the organisation.”

A few former staff members, including political educator Bonga Zamisa, are “trying to keep the organisation afloat” by volunteering their time, Zamisa said.

Founded on 16 June 2008, the SJC is a membership-based social movement with 17 branches across Cape Town communities like Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Crossroads, and Gugulethu.

The SJC fought for the introduction of the janitorial service which is now a basic necessity for thousands of families at informal settlements. The service, provided through the City of Cape Town’s Expanded Public Works Programme, employs people to clean and maintain communal toilets in informal settlements.

The SJC was one of the organisations at the forefront of fighting for a Commission of Inquiry into police inefficiency and lack of resources in Khayelitsha and other communities.

Klaas is due back in court on 13 April.

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This article was first published on GroundUp here.