April 23, 1995 in Nation/World

Report Clears Boesak Of Skimming Aid Funds But Church Groups Still Don’t Know Where Money Went

Patrick Mcdowell Associated Press
 

A government inquiry released Saturday cleared prominent activist Allan Boesak of allegations that he stole foreign donor money intended to help child victims of apartheid.

But while the inquiry ordered by President Nelson Mandela cleared Boesak of criminal wrongdoing, the government said Saturday, it found his management of donor funds negligent and sloppy.

The accusations created a scandal early this year that disgraced Boesak, a former minister, and forced him to give up his appointment as South Africa’s ambassador-designate to the United Nations in Geneva.

“Allan has got to take responsibility for the mess that has occurred,” Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said Saturday in Pretoria. “He did not exercise control, he did not exercise supervision over these things.”

There was no evidence Boesak misappropriated funds for personal gain, Mbeki said.

An ebullient Boesak said he planned to meet with Mbeki in coming days to see what political future remains for him. Speculation has arisen that he may be offered an ambassadorship, possibly to Portugal.

“The past few months have been hell,” Boesak told The Associated Press in Cape Town. “It is a vindication of justice, for God, for myself and for my wife.”

Foreign donors allege Boesak and other staff members skimmed more than 2 million rands - worth $570,000 - donated to the Foundation for Peace and Justice. The inquiry found the foundation actually owes Boesak $65,000.

Christian Balslev-Olesen, a spokesman for Danish donor DanChurch Aid, called the report incomplete, saying it did not account for all the money and did not say where the funds are now. The group will await a separate police inquiry, he said.

“Unfortunately, the government report doesn’t say what happened to the 2 million rands,” Balslev-Olesen said. “We still want to find out where our money went.”

Mbeki said DanChurch Aid based its accusations on allegations by the foundation’s accountant, Freddie Steenkamp, who handled both the foundation’s and Boesak’s personal accounts. Steenkamp said Boesak used donor funds to buy a house.

But the accountant has confessed to misappropriating funds and has been unable to supply paperwork backing up his charges.

The Boesak scandal was the first to rock Mandela’s government after his African National Congress won last year’s historic all-race elections that ended white minority rule.

Allegations of corruption among prominent ANC members have since proliferated. Most recently, Mandela sacked his estranged wife, Winnie Mandela, from her post as a deputy cabinet minister after a series of controversies, including allegations she took bribes.

Boesak played a prominent role in the anti-apartheid movement. But scandal and personal problems, including a publicized affair with the woman who is now his second wife, caused him to give up his ministry and damaged his public image.

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