CAPE TOWN - The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has warned against “unscrupulous and faceless” people parading as government officials to defraud unsuspecting farmers who have applied for the Covid-19 relief fund by promising to fast-track their applications.
The scammers apparently call farmers and send text messages requesting an amount of R2 000 as an upfront payment, promising to fast-track their Covid-19 relief-fund applications.
The text message reads: “We see that last year you applied for Agricultural Covid-19 fund of R50 000. We want to process it fast so can you send R2 000 so we can process it before December. Capitec Bank W WALSH Acc no: 1332654701 Branch Code 470010.”
Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said: “It is a scam. We are appealing to all our farmers to be careful of these fraudulent activities co-ordinated by unscrupulous and faceless people.
“Farmers and members of the public must know that they do not have to pay for any government service, especially agricultural relief funding, which is meant to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.
“The department has finalised the adjudication of all applications received from farmers and the process is now closed.”
In a separate incident, 25-year-old Athule Masimini appeared in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday, charged with fraud and money laundering.
Masimini and accomplice Sikelela Trevor Masiso, 30, are alleged to have sent spam messages to vulnerable community members for loan approvals from a fictitious financial service provider in Bruma in August 2015.
“Further investigation revealed that the suspects allegedly demanded R55 000 as legal and administration fee from complainants in order for the R500 000 loan to be processed successfully.
“Months later, without receiving the alleged loans, the complainants reported the matter with authorities and were referred to the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation team in Pretoria for further investigation.
“The investigation team successfully traced and apprehended Masiso in February 2019 at his home in Swaneville, Krugersdorp. He was sentenced to two years direct imprisonment on two counts of money laundering in February 2020.
“Masimini was arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering on Friday, October 29 in Lady Frere, Gqeberha,” said police spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mulamu.
The court granted Masimini a R2 000 bail and the case was postponed to November 9 for legal representation.