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‘Love in a hopeless place’ – how a wedding highlighted an organisation’s irreconcilable differences

‘Love in a hopeless place’ – how a wedding highlighted an organisation’s irreconcilable differences
Circa October 2020. Home is where the heart is for homeless couple Daniel and Amber Kepkey who tied the knot this week after good Samaritans made their special day one to remember. (Photo: Esa Alexander © Sunday Times)

While a former head of the Community Chest of the Western Cape described a wedding it helped fund as ‘an event of hope’, it turns out it was one of several issues relating to money that rubbed staff up the wrong way. This is the final part of a four-part investigative series.

In 2020, a homeless couple tied the knot in Cape Town.

Speaking to the YOU Magazine at the time, the couple, Amber September and Daniel Kepkey, said they met in March 2019 at a mall where Daniel worked as a trolley attendant and Amber was helping elderly people shop for their groceries, after her contract as a survey data collector had ended.

Lorenzo Davids, who was the Community Chest of the Western Cape’s (CCWC) chief executive from March 2013 to March 2021, via the organisation, helped to sponsor the wedding and said he had told his office about it.

But the event later became one of several contentious issues that rocked the organisation.

A Daily Maverick investigation has revealed that the CCWC, a non-profit organisation that has been operating for more than 90 years, is the centre of accusations and counteraccusations, ranging from financial mismanagement to a toxic work environment. (See part one, two and three of this four-part investigative series.)

The Western Cape department of social development confirmed that it was working with the CCWC “to establish if funding provided to the organisation over seven years was misused”.

A full forensic audit was set to be carried out as well.

‘One event of hope’

In terms of the wedding, Daily Maverick understands that staff at the CCWC were reluctant to channel funds towards it.

Davids, however, was for it.

He told Daily Maverick the couple, who he did not identify (but who other staff did), fell in love while housed in the CCWC building during the Covid-19 crisis.

“When they approached me with the need to get married, I agreed that we as [Community Chest] would help with their wedding costs,” Davids said. 

“It was the one event of hope in their lives. It was a beautiful wedding. The theme song at their wedding was ‘we found love in a hopeless place’. 

Davids added: “Other people paid for the venue and catering. We paid for their clothes and rings. And a few last-minute stuff. I drove the wedding car. None of the Community Chest staff pitched up.”

A CCWC staffer told Daily Maverick that they believed Davids got involved in the wedding simply to make himself look good while using a CCWC credit card.

‘I paid back the money’

As detailed in part three of this investigative series, some CCWC staff pointed to Davids as having misused one of the organisation’s credit cards.  Insert link

Davids acknowledged to Daily Maverick that he had lost some slips relating to a credit card, but said he had dealt with this.

“When I became aware of the missing slips and cash we gave as stipends to homeless people weekly to survive during the [Covid-19] pandemic, my instruction to the finance office was that I would be fully liable for this to pay this back to [Community Chest] myself,” he said. 

“We did what we did because of the pandemic lockdown conditions, low cash flow and the urgencies we encountered. 

“My instruction to the office was, ‘please take every cent that can’t be fully backed up by slips and invoice me for it’… I asked them to do it. I paid back the money through funds due to me when I resigned.”

Davids said that, in a sense, he “essentially funded Community Chest”.

Daniel and Amber with Quinton Adams who donated materials for them to build their shack, and Community Chest chief executive Lorenzo Davids who helped sponsor the wedding. (Photo: Supplied)

Forking out from his own pocket

While several accusations were made against Davids and his leadership style and handling of funds at the CCWC, he also made claims about money he said he paid out of his own pocket.  

‘Social justice champ’ Lorenzo Davids labels bullying claims against him a smear campaign

Referring to the slips he lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, Davids said he was not ashamed of having done so.

“I paid every cent back to Community Chest. In addition, there is an email on record where I state to the finance office that I spent R25,000 of my own funds to help the homeless,” he added.

Displaced people erect homes along train lines and parking lots in Lansdowne, Cape Town, on 12 August 2020.

“You must understand, for more than a year [due to Covid-19 lockdowns] some businesses did not operate. People did not come into the CBD. Many homeless people were without any form or regular income from begging or gifts from shops. We kept many of them alive.”

Masks and money

Davids also said he paid thousands of rands for branded masks for a memorial service for Anti-Gang Unit detective Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear who was assassinated outside his Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town in September 2020.

He said an institution had asked the CCWC to sponsor branded masks for the service.

“I got approval for it from finance but when it came time to pay, the finance office ordered me to pay for masks myself ‘because the cost per mask was too high’ after they knew it was higher than the usual cost we pay for [unbranded] masks,” Davids claimed.

“Afterwards I was ordered to pay for the masks from my own salary – a R13,000 bill. Which I did.”

In relation to broader allegations linked to financial issues at the CCWC, its board chair, Richard Noor, told Daily Maverick: “We await guidance in respect of a forensic audit to be conducted of all Community Chest WC affairs and related allegations contained in the ‘whistle-blowers’ reports.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mpumi Bikitsha says:

    Oh my! This was my very first place of employment after graduating from my Social Anthrop Honours at UCT in 1989. The CEO was Robert Blake then. What a warm and friendly environment! Pity!

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