The manager of a Cape Town orphanage, who is accused of fraud and corruption, should not be granted bail as she is a flight risk and her "very existence in South Africa is based on fraud", the Cape Town Magistrate's Court heard on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Adiel Jansen said he also had reason to believe that the 49-year-old, who is not being named as she faces potential sexual offence charges, had been previously convicted for fraud.
Her defence team admitted that she had received a non-custodial sentence for a 2017 fraud matter in Bellville.
It was argued that she had been out on R1 000 bail in that matter and there were grounds for her to be granted bail in the present matter too.
'Planning to skip the country'
The manager of Al-Noor Child and Youth Care Centre - a Cameroonian national - was arrested during a sting operation by the Hawks' serious corruption investigation team and the Department of Social Development earlier this month.
The department removed 17 children from the facility on the back of allegations of physical and sexual abuse. It coordinated efforts to reunite the children with their "immediate family" after the centre was shut down.
Jansen said the State was opposing bail.
"We have recently received information that she is planning to skip the country," he told Magistrate Reaz Khan.
But the woman's lawyer, Andre Johnston, pointed out that she was hardly able to walk to the dock, let alone flee.
She struggled to climb the stairs to the dock from the police cell in the basement and it took a few minutes to get there with the help of a policeman.
Once seated, she clung to a stress ball in her right hand, with her right arm shaking the entire time.
Pointing out her physical state, Johnston said: "It would probably take her three weeks to get to the airport." The public gallery then erupted with laughter.
He explained that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2017, which resulted in a stroke, and had been on chronic medication since then.
"She has quite a bit of medication that she needs to take. We have been trying to communicate with the people at Pollsmoor, but this has been met with hostility."
Disputing that she was a flight risk, he said she had a bonded property to her name, was married and had two children - a 19-year-old in university and a five-year-old. He was also in possession of her passport.
Johnston took exception to the allegations around her citizenship, calling it "utter nonsense". She had been in the country since 1993 and had "fought" for her South African citizenship, he said.
She was arrested many years ago and Home Affairs had put a block on her ID in 2006. It took him several years to resolve the matter and remove the block.
"I dealt with the matter myself, so I know the charges were withdrawn," Johnston said.
Jansen said that case was in 2012, not 2006, and was withdrawn because the State did not have enough information at that stage.
"We now have more information, detailed information in respect of fraud of her application to stay in the country."
He charged that the accused had "corrupt dealings" with Home Affairs and police officials.
Jansen also challenged her condition. "According to my knowledge, the accused is not as sickly as she claims."
The public gallery then loudly jeered him.
Khan said in light of the issues raised by the State and her being considered a flight risk, it was imperative that evidence be led during a bail application.
He postponed it until July 11 for this purpose. She would be kept in the hospital section of Pollsmoor prison until then.
Outside court, a small group of children showed their support for the accused and the orphanage. They carried posters reading: "Bring back the home", "Hands off our mother" and "Our home away 4rm homelessness".