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We were violated by loan sharks, say pensioners as cops bust Sassa syndicate

SASSA

Pensioners whose IDs and SA Social Services Agency (Sassa) cards were taken by alleged loan sharks arrested during pension payouts said they felt violated and abused. This was according to social justice NGO Black Sash, whose team was at the Howick Post Office when 56-year-old Sibusiso Africa Mthembu and Trevor Rowe were arrested for Contravention of the National Credit Act (NCA) this week.

Information from Sassa is that the pair were among four people arrested in Howick for this crime.

Mthembu was arrested on Monday with 470 cards in his possession, and Rowe was found with 250 cards. Mzwanele Ncobeni and Slindelo Dlangisa were arrested on Tuesday.

Black Sash regional manager Evashnee Naidoo said those beneficiaries who were affected alleged that Mthembu would lend them money and instead of a loan contract being signed, he held their cards and IDs.

“This meant he could withdraw whatever amount he wanted to. The beneficiaries said they didn’t know how much would be withdrawn by the man on a monthly basis, and this left them with little money to support themselves. They said they felt violated and abused because they were poor and this gentleman took advantage of that,” said Naidoo.

She urged beneficiaries not to give their cards or PINs to loan sharks, as this was illegal.

Social Development Department spokesperson Mhlaba Memela said keeping documents that belonged to someone else was a crime.

“Those people who take and keep cards and IDs belonging to vulnerable groups should face the law. The government gives pensions to vulnerable groups to meet their challenges. We call for the justice system to deal with the culprits. We also call on our communities, especially pensioners, to refrain from taking loans from loan sharks.”

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said Mthembu had over R70 000 in cash on him when arrested and was alleged to be operating an unregistered loan business.

He was charged under the Sassa and National Credit Acts, and in terms of the disaster management regulations relating to the Covid-19 lockdown. He was released on R5000 bail and the matter adjourned to July 1.

Sassa said the two arrested on Tuesday were found with four SA Post Office bank cards and R8 800 was confiscated.

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Source: Daily News