Conned out of her house

2008-11-23 00:00

A Durban hairdresser, Elizabeth Bernard, has alleged in papers before the Pietermaritzburg High Court that she was the victim of an elaborate scam over several years, which resulted in her estate being sequestrated and her property sold fraudulently.

She has obtained a high court order preventing her property at Forest Clay Gardens, Clayfields, Phoenix, from being sold, pending the outcome of further legal action.

In court papers, Bernard says she inherited her property from her father in 1999. Initially it was bond-free, but she was forced in 2001 to apply for a home loan.

In 2004 she again ran into severe financial difficulty and her bond repayments fell into arrears. She saw an advertisement in a Durban newspaper offering financial assistance to those “blacklisted or in need of cash”.

She responded to the advert and made contact with a certain “Bert van Zyl”.

Bernard said Van Zyl visited her at home and said he could give her a loan. He said he would help “save” her house and pay other creditors. She said she wanted R60 000.

Subsequently he asked her to sign documents in connection with the loan. “The documents were not explained to me and comprised a document in Afrikaans, which I could not read, and some blank sheets of paper where he requested me to sign in the bottom right-hand corner. He was insistent that I sign quickly …” she states.

Bernard says Van Zyl instructed her to make her bond repayments to him and not to Standard Bank as he was “sorting out the bank”.

She paid him various amounts in cash and received receipts only on three occasions in 2005.

Van Zyl subsequently told her he had her declared bankrupt.

Bernard said this was done without her authority and she did not understand what it entailed.

She found it difficult to contact Van Zyl, whose telephone numbers, address and trading names “changed constantly”.

In October last year Van Zyl contacted her and told her she had better pay her bond arrears or she would be “kicked out” of her home. She also discovered — from an electricity bill — that her property was then listed in the name of “Little Swift Investments 310 (Pty) Limited”.

Van Zyl told her the property would be transferred back to her name once she was rehabilitated after 18 months.

Since then he has avoided her calls.

On November 14 last year, she was contacted by people who advised her she had to pay bond arrears of R11 000 due to First National Bank.

“This was the first time that I became aware that First National Bank held the bond over my property, which was now registered in the name of Little Swift Investments 310 (Pty) Limited,” said Bernard.

“I now believe I have been misled and defrauded by Van Zyl and his associates and that I have been gravely prejudiced,” she said.

Bernard said her attorney has established that a voluntary surrender of her estate was accepted and that her estate had been sequestrated by order of court on April 26, 2005. She says she never signed any documents relating to the application.

She also never had any dealings with the attorneys who applied for the sequestration, Schoonraad Prokureurs of Pretoria, and never had any contact with the trustee appointed in her estate, Jacobus Petrus Fourie.

Bernard said her attorney has established that Fourie — in his capacity as trustee of her insolvent estate — sold her property on November 1, 2005, to Yvette Janse van Vuuren and Thomas John Conradie, both of Wood Road, Montclair, for R170 000, and they in turn sold it to Little Swift Investments for R308 000 on the same date.

“The sale agreement with Van Vuuren and Conradie, which purports to be signed by me, is a document which I have never seen and which I did not sign,” states Bernard.

In September this year Bernard became aware that Little Swift Investments too was liquidated on April 2 this year following foreclosure on the bond by FNB, and the property was due to be sold “imminently”. The arrears is said to be R330 362.

Bernard now has three months to take steps to set aside the sequestration of her estate as well as the sales of her property.

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