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S.African mayor held over Mandela memorial funds fraud

A South African mayor and two other local officials were arrested on Monday over alleged abuse of state funds meant for Nelson Mandela’s memorial, according to police and government officials.

Southeastern Buffalo City Metro mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, his deputy Temba Tinta and council speaker Luleka-Simon Ndzele were arrested and then later released on bail, they said.

A spokesman for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said up to five of its representatives, including a senior party official, had also been taken into custody.

“The arrests are in relation to the Nelson Mandela memorial saga, which is currently under investigation,” the department of local government said in a statement.

A spokesman for an elite unit of South Africa’s police, Paul Ramaloko, told AFP the trio are facing charges of “fraud, corruption and money laundering” surrounding the transport of mourners to Mandela’s memorial.

They have been granted bail of 10,000 rand ($945, 690 euros) each and further hearings have been postponed to September 1 to allow time for more investigations, the police said.

Opposition parties had demanded a probe into how taxpayers’ money, released for Mandela’s memorial last December, had been used after allegations some of the funds had been misappropriated.

South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid died on December 5 at the age of 95 after a long illness, prompting a global outpouring of grief.

Local media reported they had been used to buy ANC campaign materials, including t-shirts for supporters, in the run up to South Africa’s May election.

The ANC said it had “noted the serious allegations” against the officials.

Party spokesman Keith Khoza told AFP a regional secretary was among the group of party members arrested in connection with the case.

“Corruption is a cancer that has no place in the ANC and our society,” the party said in a statement.