BY Garikai Mafirakureva
Over 2 800 people in Chiredzi are counting their losses after money pyramid schemes that were operating around town collapsed.
Chiredzi Town Council ward 4 councillor, Liberty Macharaga (Zanu PF) is alleged to be at the centre of a scheme which saw its members losing between R200 and US$100.
He was reported to have been running various WhatsaApp groups called Money Crew that saw investors losing over half a million rands (R560 000).
Various messages and audios were circulated in WhatsApp groups luring investors to join the scheme. Other money schemes include Elamant and Crowd 1 which were demanding between US$100 and US$125.
The schemes were luring investors by paying profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors leading unsuspecting victims to believe that profits were being generated from product sales or other means, unaware that other investors were the source of funds.
The scheme has been operating under the false impression that it was a sustainable business investment.
Some of the investors have already reported to the police while others have taken it upon themselves to recover their money.
In some bizarre incidents, a benefactor was forced to remove and sell his roofing material to pay back investors, while others sold their household property to pay back angry investors.
Part of the message that was seen by the NewsDay reads: “Let’s take advantage of this lockdown period to make money in the comfort of our homes. Join Money Crew today. With as little as $13 or R200 as joining fee, you will get R7 200. All you need is to recruit two people after joining. Just inbox me for more information on how the scheme works.”
Macharaga played down the commotion caused by the scheme saying his groups were running smoothly.
He went on to implicate various people who were running the other schemes that included a prominent doctor, businesspeople and eight nurses at Chiredzi General Hospital.
“This scheme has been running for some time now and involves various prominent people in Chiredzi including doctors, nurses and businesspeople. Although other groups have problems; my groups do not have any problems,” he said.
However, one investor, who preferred not to be named, said they had invested a lot of money in the scheme and were in the process of recovering their money.
“We thought this was a genuine scheme because the councillor was involved, but we are now having a hard time to recover our money,” she said.
Masvingo province police spokesperson Chief Inspector Charity Mazula could not be reached for comment as she was said to be out office on campaigns.