9 September 2020
Mount Frere police are investigating a case of contravention of the National Credit Act, after a moneylender took IDs and SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) cards from several social grant beneficiaries, sometimes at gunpoint.
Several social grant beneficiaries in the Eastern Cape town, also known as KwaBhaca, were not able to collect their money this month.
Police spokesperson Khaya Tonjeni confirmed that police are investigating but said no arrest had been made.
This occurred in Mabhobho and Emacwerheni village.
On 27 August, a 19-year-old girl in Mabhobho village told GroundUp, a moneylender called Sesethu Booi, owner of Magongolo cash loans, had come into her mother’s house with two gunmen. She said Booi was demanding R21,000 Booi claimed she was owed.
The girl said in 2017 her mother had borrowed R900 from Magongolo to pay her school fees. The agreement was that the mother would repay the loan with 50% interest, by paying R450 a month for three months – a total of R1,350. But when her mother visited the Magongolo office in Mount Frere to pay back the money, the office was already closed.
Three years later on 26 August, Booi came back demanding her money.
GroundUp met the girl’s mother in Mabhobho village. She said the three barged into her bedroom where she was taking a bath. “I saw a gun on one of the men, I just stood there not knowing what to do. I was so scared. They told me I owe R21,000 since 2017.”
“I told them I do not have such an amount. They demanded R5,000 cash but I didn’t have it.”
The three had told her to dress and driven her in a bakkie to the post office. There she had been forced to change her SASSA card and to get a new PIN. The three then took her card and her ID.
Another woman from the village said she had borrowed R500 from Magongolo in 2017. The same day, 27 August this year, Booi had visited her and told her she owed R15,000. When she said she did not have the money, Booi told her to pay R2,000 so she could write off the debt, said the 66-year-old woman. She paid the R2,000 from money she received from her granddaughter.
Another woman said she borrowed R400, and was told her debt from 2017 was now R23,000. She settled the debt with R3,000.
GroundUp was told of other victims in the village but they were not willing to speak. They laid a complaint with the police on 31August.
At nearby Emacwerheni village, a 72-old-year man told GroundUp he had borrowed R1,200 from Magongolo in 2017, with a commitment to pay R600 for three months. “My grandson was going to university in Cape Town. He used the money for transport,” he said. But he had not paid any of the instalments because the Mount Frere Magongolo office had been closed without notice.
He was told on 27 August that he owed R40,000.
“They pointed a gun at me forcing me to come here to change my card,” he said, at the post office.
When GroundUp contacted Booi last week, she confirmed being a moneylender but then quickly dropped the call. Since then, calls have gone straight to voicemail.
National Credit Regulator spokesperson Ntombizodwa Mahlangu said, “It is prohibited in terms of the National Credit Act for any credit provider to hold, use or rely on a consumer’s SASSA card or PIN number for purposes of collecting on or enforcing a credit agreement.”
She said she could find no record of Magongolo on the NCR data base of credit providers but would follow up the matter.
Mount Frere Post Office Acting Branch Manager Thembakazi Dywili said the post office assisted four people who came to report the matter, by blocking the new SASSA cards.