A Joburg businesswoman has disappeared after being linked to an RDP housing scam in which she allegedly used private data from the Human Settlements Department to rip off desperate home seekers.
Rachel Mlambo was believed to have colluded with department staff to get access to the list of RDP beneficiaries and “sell” their homes to her clients at R60000 a unit.
In many cases the legitimate beneficiaries were struck off the list to make way for her “clients”, for a fee.
One person has opened a theft case against Mlambo, and a group of other victims intend to follow suit.
Mlambo has since allegedly vanished and also changed her contact numbers several times to avoid her livid clients, who are now left in financial turmoil.
Joyce Mabunda, 49, lost R120000 in the scam after she allegedly bought two units from Mlambo last year.
She had been looking forward to leaving her parents' house in Diepkloof, Soweto.
Mabunda had come into contact with one of Mlambo’s touts, Monde Hofman, who took her to their RKM Homes offices in Main Street, central Joburg.
She paid R120000 for the houses for herself and her son.
“She gave me her account number, and because of the excitement I had, within weeks I paid my first instalment of R10000 and the second of R110000 by the end of August,” Mabunda said.
She was assured that she would get her houses, one in Devland and another in Lufhereng, within months.
Mabunda felt uncomfortable in December when Mlambo changed her contact numbers and couldn’t be reached. Hofman gave her Mlambo’s new numbers.
“After getting hold of her, she told me that the houses promised were no longer available. I was told that my new home would be in Roodekrans, Roodepoort, and later in the Joburg CBD,” she said.
In January, Mlambo had allegedly changed her cellphone number again.
“This was the red flag that caused me to panic, and I have tried all I could to find her, but till today she is nowhere to be found,” Mabunda said.
She opened a case of theft at Diepkloof police station last month and made contact with other victims.
Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele confirmed that a case had been opened against Mlambo, although she had not been arrested. “No suspect has been arrested and the matter is still under investigation,” he said.
Hofman said he didn’t know of Mlambo’s intentions until he started getting complaints this year.
He admitted to being her middleman and that their scam included getting help from government employees.
“She and the contact (employee) would adjust the data in favour of the people who have paid her. This she does mostly with people who have registered. Deceased persons on the list are also targeted.
“This whole situation makes me feel really bad because some of the people I connected Rachel (Mlambo) with were close to me,” he said.
He claimed that Mlambo also owed him a home.
“We agreed that as part of my commission, which amounted to about R35000, I would get a home in Tsakane Extension 3,” Hofman said.
Nqo Mahlangu, 33, a friend of Hofman from Daveyton, also lost R60000 in the scam in January. He had to take out a loan to secure the house and is now in debt, with no home.
“I have to pay more than R600 a week for nothing,” he said.
Angie Maduguma, 53, also from Daveyton, also lost R60000, of which a portion was a loan from her employer.
“I’m currently living at different places, sometimes with friends. I really wanted this house,” she said.
The Star’s attempt to reach Mlambo failed as she was not available on any of her cellphone numbers. She didn't return messages on her Facebook account. Her offices in the Joburg CBD were vacant when The Star visited on Monday. A company search shows she is still the director of RKM Homes.
Gauteng Human Settlements Department spokesperson Keith Khoza said they were not aware of the alleged collusion between Mlambo and their staff.
“The data in the department's system is carefully guarded, but the possibility of manipulation is during the allocation process, which is done jointly by the department and the municipality's allocation committee.”
He added that an act of fraud could happen when a beneficiary was not informed of the allocation of a house.
“This does not change the name of the legitimate owner in the department’s system and will create problems for the person who has bought the house fraudulently, as he/she will not be able to obtain the title deed.”
Khoza added that when an act of fraud was uncovered, the illegitimate homeowner would be evicted and law enforcement agencies informed.