File photo: Reuters

Durban - A man posing as a Midlands lawyer allegedly duped poor people out of their savings in 2010 by claiming he was authorised by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to process land claims despite their having missed the deadline.

At a public hearing on the amendments to the Land Restitution Bill in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, about 140 people begged the provincial government to find out what happened to money they paid to this “lawyer” to process their land claim applications.

They said they paid between R20 and R100 for every community member.

The victims, from Howick, Estcourt and Mooi River, handed over a copy of a letter in which they gave power of attorney to a man they said had claimed to be a lawyer.

Daphne Khuzwayo, a lawyer from the provincial legislature who led Thursday’s hearing, said many people appeared to have been defrauded.

“One had a power of attorney letter (dated 2010) from attorneys around Pietermaritzburg promising the community that they would sort out their land claims. They were each asked to pay R100.”

Gcina Tshabalala, from the Landless Peoples Movement, who also attended the meeting, said the “lawyer” was well known and had been warned to stop, but had carried on.

Contacted last night the “lawyer” said his operation had been approved by the provincial government.

He said he was given a token amount for transport and stationery by the communities he helped to travel to Pietermaritzburg to resolve land claims.

The hearings were completed on Thursday.

The Mercury