At least three Pietermaritzburg women have fallen prey to smooth-talking men, who stole their life’s savings before disappearing without a trace, leaving the women destitute.
Using similar modus operandi, the men start by luring women, mostly government employees, into a relationship, before persuading them to quit their jobs and withdraw their entire life savings. Once the money has been handed to the men, they cut contact with the women, changing their numbers and even moving houses.
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson, Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said although three cases had been opened, one of the victims — a former nurse — had committed suicide in February this year after a sweet-talking man disappeared with almost R600,000 of her money. Sergeant Ngobese warned women, especially government employees to be on the alert for “opportunistic criminals who do not want to earn a living but would rather steal someone’s hard earned money”.
Speaking to Weekend Witness on Friday on condition of anonymity, two of the victims shared their devastating stories of heartbreak, betrayal and having to start life all over again. Both women are having to pull their children from their schools and tertiary studies and have had to give up their homes to live with and be supported by family members.
One of the women, a former teacher (58) lost R1,3 million to a man she loved and who she thought, loved her back. She met the man in the Eastern Cape late last year and soon after he proposed and they moved to Pietermaritzburg. They moved into a house in Northdale where the man said he could hear the voices of his ancestors who told him she must withdraw a certain amount of money from her account every day.
“He wanted me to invest in a company. The day my money ran out, he took me to the Eastern Cape to visit friends and my children. We arrived and he said he had to go somewhere but would come back. He never did. I went to his house and he had taken everything and left. He took my cellphone and all of my clothes, not just my money,” she said.
The second woman said she met an older looking man near a government building in town late last year. The pair exchanged numbers and were engaged a month later. The man took her to his three bedroom home in Northdale and told her he had to introduce her to his ancestors. He took her into a room with a sponge and a grass hat.
“He made contact with the ancestors and we started talking to them.”
She said the voices of the ancestors came from the grass hat.
“The ancestors asked if I was employed, where I was employed and how much I earned.”
She told them she was having problems at work and they said she needed to be cleansed. The cleansing would cost R75,000. She was persuaded to take out a loan and she gave it to her boyfriend to give to the ancestors and was cleansed. She said they told her she would receive a “gift” of R40 million which she told the ancestors she would use to start her own business. She was told to resign as she was a government employee, and only if she did so would her dreams come true. Finally, the woman begrudgingly resigned but was told by the ancestors if she touched “even a cent of her pension” she would lose everything, including her young child.
After withdrawing her pension and giving it to her boyfriend for the ancestors, he told her they would be rich. A few days later she received a call from the man who said he had been arrested and needed R15 000 for bail but she did not have the money.
“I had not told anyone I was unemployed yet. I confided in a friend who said I was being scammed and I opened a case. He was just so charming. It was like there was film over my eyes and I could not see clearly.”
She added that when she went to his house after opening the case, she found the gate unlocked and the house completely empty except for the key in the door.
Contacting him from then on proved impossible.