Durban - Police and the Road Accident Fund are investigating a case of fraud against lawyer Mbongeni Mkhize after he allegedly pocketed more than R1 million in compensation owed to car accident victim Siyabonga Mbuthuma, 33.
Mbuthuma, from Gcilima village in Port Shepstone, has opened a case of fraud against Mkhize.
Speaking to the Daily News Mbuthuma said he could not understand why an arrest had not been effected since he opened the case in February at Margate police station.
He said Mkhize was from the area and that was how he knew he had not been arrested. He had gone to the investigating officer several times regarding this but was told police were still looking for Mkhize because they had been unable to reach him on his cellphone.
Mbuthuma also said the investigating officer had asked him for Mkhize’s car licence number plate details to assist in tracking him down.
According to a proof of payment seen by the paper, the RAF paid just over R1.9 million into Mkhize's account for Mbuthuma’s compensation claim but Mbuthuma said he received only R540 000.
He also said he was never informed of the total amount of his claim paid and found out about it only after he was helped by Samkelo Sithole of MNM Credit Solutions, who investigated and discovered that the lawyer had claimed R1.9m in total.
Sithole said after getting confirmation of this from the RAF he contacted Mkhize to confront him about it, after which the two met at Mkhize’s request.
He alleged that when they met Mkhize offered him R20 000 as a “shut-up fee” and asked him not to continue pursuing the matter. Sithole said he went to Margate police station with the money to lay charges of bribery, but a few minutes after leaving the station he allegedly received a call from Mkhize asking him why he went to the police and demanding his money back.
He said he was surprised that the police were able to immediately contact Mkhize because Mbuthuma had been told that Mkhize could not be reached on his cellphone.
Sithole said he has since been told by police that the bribery case he opened against Mkhize was withdrawn because there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
“This too surprised me – that despite showing police the money and video of Mkhize allegedly handing me the money the case was withdrawn. I also thought that the case would be withdrawn in court and I would have been called to testify, but the investigating officer told me that his superior told him to withdraw the case because it lacked evidence. I suspect the lawyer has connections in that police station, so Mbuthuma and I plead with the provincial commissioner to take both cases out of that police station,” said Sithole.
He added that Mkhize had allegedly threatened to kill him, which he also reported to the police station.
Mbuthuma also has a fraud case pending against a close relative, after he realised that a big portion of his R540 000 had gone missing.
He said that when he went to a bank to get a statement he discovered that the relative had allegedly transferred the money using a cellphone banking app to her account without his knowledge.
Attempts to contact the relative were unsuccessful.
Mkhize confirmed that he successfully lodged a claim for Mbuthuma and the RAF did pay R1.9m, and said he paid Mbuthuma R540 000 and took his 25% contingency fee as prescribed by law, denying that he defrauded him.
He said that R900 000 had been kept in a trust opened for Mbuthuma after discussing with his family that he (Mkhize) must keep the money safe because after the accident Mbuthuma’s mental capability was affected. Mkhize also said he was told by Mbuthuma’s relative that there was no reason to give him the remaining funds now because from the R540 000 the relative was sending R3 000 to Mbuthuma every month to buy food, which Mbuthuma denied.
The Daily News understands that this was the relative against whom Mbuthuma opened a case of fraud. Mkhize also denied bribing Sithole as well as threatening to kill him. He said he was aware of the case against him but police had not contacted him.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala confirmed that a case of fraud was opened and was under investigation. She added that she would be able to get more details on Monday after speaking to the investigating officer.
RAF spokesperson William Maphutha said the state entity was investigating the allegations through its anti-corruption unit.