BY RICHARD MUPONDE/ SHARON SIBINDI
HUNDREDS of civil servants in Matabeleland South province are reportedly counting losses after paying huge sums of money to a con-artist a fortnight ago who reportedly misrepresented that he could supply them with food items during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The con-artist reportedly advertised that he was in a position to source food items for the civil servants and was mainly targeting those based in rural areas, mostly nurses, district development co-ordinators and council staff, among others.
The most hit were nurses based at remote clinics.
Some of the victims transferred as much as $20 000 to the alleged con-artist’s EcoCash mobile number.
In Plumtree, nurses and health staff from 20 clinics, two hospitals Brunapeg and Plumtree District Hospital, including workers from local authorities were duped of over $200 000.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele yesterday said he was checking with the districts for the police reports.
“At the moment, there is nothing in my office, let me check with the districts,” Ndebele said.
However, a source, who is a nurse at a clinic in Mangwe district who also fell victim, yesterday confirmed that hundreds of them were duped by the con artist.
“Those who were sending EcoCash were putting their monies into one line, which would then be used to send the bulk to the suspect’s number. Our runner would then send him the list of goods wanted and the names of the people. Some even transferred huge amounts from their bank accounts. I know of a colleague who transferred $20 000, which has gone down the drain,” he said
The source said most of the victims were caught unsuspecting, as they thought it was a genuine deal.
“The person disappeared and stopped answering calls. That was when it dawned on many of us that we had dealt with a conman. People lost huge sums of money and they are counting losses since some lost all their savings as they wanted to buy groceries in bulk and make business during the lockdown at their workstations,” he said.
“We have since reported the matter to the police. I hope he will be arrested, but we have no hope of recovering the money. That person was so smart in his dealings that no one suspected him to be a con-artist,” the source said
Con-artists using fake EcoCash lines and merchant codes registered using identity particulars of deceased persons or lost identity cards have been on the prowl, targeting unsuspecting people and duping them of large sums of money.