VUVULANE – Poverty stricken residents of Lomahasha and surrounding areas have lost approximately E400 000 to a fly-by-night farming scheme, which promised to provide land in Mozambique for sugarcane farming.
Matola, Mozambique, about 80km away from Lomahasha boarder post on your way to Maputo, is the place where the farming of sugarcane could have happened, should the farming project became reality.
It was a dream, too good to be true, according to the members who have already lost hope of ever recovering their money. Lomahasha Community Business Development (PTY) LTD, according to the membership cards given to the unsuspecting members, is the name of the now vanished scheme.
It is alleged, it all began in 2009 when Victor Khathwane of Lomahasha accompanied by a group of about five men, convened a meeting with people at Maphiveni community business centre and unpacked the idea of farming sugarcane in Mozambique. He is alleged to have told the gathered residents that he has secured about 400 hacters of land in Matola, hence he wanted to develop it through a company.
It is alleged he requested that more and more residents be informed of the idea to form the company so that they could come and join. According to the membership cards, the company was to specialise in import and export, agents, buyers and sellers by wholesale or retail, distributors of agricultural products and commodities manufacturers, producers and merchants, building and construction and breeders and poultry farm.
Each member had to fork out E700 as a joining fee. It was mentioned that the money was to be used as capital, meanwhile other means of getting an investor were being explored.
Since the levels of poverty and unemployment are high at Lomahasha, Independent News has established that more and more people joined the scheme, with some paying the membership fees in full, while others paid in instalments. The company in question, reportedly secured over 500 members from places including but not limited to Shewula, Lomahasha, Siteki and Manjengeni.
Information reaching Independent News is to the effect that several meetings continued to be held up until in 2011, when the members were told that their land in Matola, was already cleared in preparation for the resumption of farming.
It is said some of the members became suspicious upon hearing that the land was being cleared as they wondered how could -one develop land without their knowledge as the real owners.
They complained of being in possession of something they didn’t even know, as no one among the over 500 members laid eyes on the talked about land, but it was only in paper.
According to our well-placed sources, it all backfired in 2013 when members started demanding that Khathwane take them to Matola to show them the land he was talking about.
It is alleged that since he had earlier told them operations had already begun, they demanded he also give them dividends. Khathwane is alleged to have stated a date on which he would hire busses to ferry all the 500 members to Mozambique to see their land. It is said, that was the last time they ever saw him up until to-date.
Members who called this reporter, complained that Khathwane and his team lied to them, hence all they want and care about is to get their money back.
“I thought this was something genuine up until when we were told Khathwane has vanished without any trace with our money. It’s been over seven years now without hearing anything regarding that matter. We were lied to” lamented Dumaphansi Matubuko, one of the members.
Dumaphansi claimed he paid in full the required E700 membership fee in 2010. Another member James Masimula from Shewula said they once tried to organize the other members with the purpose of opening a criminal case against Khathwane to refund them, but they couldn’t meet due to that they heard Khathwane relocated to Mozambique. “Khathwane must refund us, we are no longer interested in his project but all we want is our money back. We tried to locate him with no success and rumours have it that he went back to Mozambique” concluded Masimula.
This reporter tried to contact Khathwane”s mobile phone with no success. Tracing him and his whereabouts proved futile as it is alleged he was last seen in 2013.