A fake traditional healer has been conning people out of hundreds of thousands of rand in pensions, savings and inheritances, in KwaZulu-Natal.
The alleged con artist had promised victims that he could double their savings and investments.
Police are now appealing to the public for help.
“The suspect also convinced victims into believing he would help them with injuries, problematic relationships and financial problems in return for cash,” said police spokesman, Lieutenant Joey Jeevan.
The alleged suspect works with a syndicate, thought to be currently operating in Pietermaritzburg.
But, its members would disappear for weeks after a successful con job before surfacing elsewhere in the province, said Jeevan.
One of the victims, Thulisile Mthembu, 53, said yesterday she had spotted the man who had scammed her out of R69 000 three years ago. But he had disappeared before the police arrived, she said.
Mthembu said she was first approached by the man, who appeared to be in his thirties, while walking down Peter Kerchoff (Chapel) Street in Pietermaritzburg in 2011.
The man, who claimed to be a Kenyan traditional healer, identified himself as Paul Mugashi and was accompanied by another man, who he said was his brother.
Mugashi promised to solve the unemployed Mthembu’s problems.
Mthembu, of Isobantu in Pietermatizburg, was at first reluctant but Mugashi eventually persuaded her to give him her phone number.
“The following day he called me and asked to make an appointment. He said he would be able to help me with everything. There had been a lot of deaths in the family and he promised to help me out with them.”
Over the course of two years, Mugashi gained Mthembu’s trust. He told her he would perform a ritual that would halt further deaths in her family, but to do this he needed money to buy a cow.
Mthembu told him to wait for her late mother’s pension payout to be processed, which happened last year.
Mugashi then told her he had made contact with both their ancestors and took her to a dark room where she supposedly talked to them in English.
Mthembu said the ancestors, who spoke with deep, gruff voices, promised her R2 million.
She became a bit suspicious and asked to take a photograph of Mugashi but he became angry and threatened to set the ancestors on her.
Mugashi then showed her a box filled with R100 notes and said that it was hers but that she would only get it if she did as he said.
“He instructed me to make cash withdrawals every week from the bank and give the money to him. Before I made the withdrawals he said I must put muti on myself. I made withdrawals until I had used up all the money that I had invested,” she said.
Mthembu said she became more suspicious when Mugashi later called her and told her that her ancestors had said she must perform a ceremony. She was to go to a nearby hill with him and stay there for two days and after the ceremony was performed, he promised she would get the money.
“When he told me to go to the hill I refused to go because I feared for my safety as they might hurt me,” Mthembu said. She later went to his office, in the Pietermaritzburg CBD, only to find it empty.
Mthembu then went to the police station to open up a case against him.
Last week she saw Mugashi in town and ran to tell the investigating officer, but he was out of his office.
She was told to speak to another officer, but when they went to search for Mugashi he was gone.
In a similar case, according to police, a 55-year-old man was conned out of his R700 000 pension last year.
The victim was walking down Church Street when a man handed him a pamphlet.
He later called the man as he had an old injury that was affecting him.
He was told to go to Theatre Lane in the CBD for a consultation during which he would be talking with his ancestors.
He entered a dark room where his “ancestors” told him to hand over his pension and in return he would get R5 million.
The victim withdrew the money and handed it over, but when he went back to the man’s office, he found it empty.
Jeevan said others who might have fallen victim to this or similar scams could assist police in their investigations.
They are urged to contact the Pietermaritzburg detective branch by calling 033 845 2400/2442, or in person at 231 Jabu Ndlovu Street.