I worked for Mandla Lamba

By Drum Digital
10 November 2010

HE LIKED to portray himself as South Africa's youngest billionaire. A mining tycoon at the age of 25, he had it all: the suits, the cars, the houses, the businesses. He could even write PhD behind his name.

He was also good looking, articulate and charming, with a smile that could win you over in a heartbeat ? and I should know, because I briefly worked for the now busted "billionaire" Mandla Lamba.

The axe has now fallen on his supposedly successful life. Sunday newspapers recently unmasked him as a fraud and a liar, revealing he never obtained a business administration doctorate from Unisa as he claims and was never offered a directorship of Investec bank ? again, as he claimed. His assertion that he has a second doctorate from the University of Liverpool in England could not be confirmed.

His alleged ownership of manganese mines in South Africa, Zambia and Congo- Brazzaville is nothing but wishful thinking. And as for his purported friendship with the likes of "mentors" such as ANC heavyweight and business leader Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe ? the couple say they have never met him.

In short, Mandla ? like the character in the hit movie Catch Me If You Can ? turned out to be a con artist, albeit one with the gift of sweet-talking almost anybody into believing him.

I first came across the "good doctor" in February 2009 when I was researching a story on funeral policies. He was CEO of Godforth Life Assurance, which offered financial services such as debt consolidation, car insurance and funeral policies.

The policies included "VIP packages", one of which promised to pay R100 000 to the family in the event of the member's death. A famous gospel singer who'd perform at the funeral plus transport in a Hummer or Land Rover were part of the deal.

I arranged to interview Mandla over the phone about this policy, which would be perfect as the "high-end option" for my story. At that stage everything about the company and its CEO seemed legitimate. According to its website, Godforth had been around for five years, was listed on both the Joburg and New York stock exchanges with branches nationwide, a head office in the UK and more than 1 500 employees.

My story appeared and a few weeks later Mandla asked for a meeting as he wanted to get involved with DRUM, he said.

WE MET at his office in Parktown North and he was charismatic, friendly and immaculately dressed. He was a great conversationalist, well-read and well travelled ? or so he claimed. He seemed modest enough, even if he did name-drop and claim business deals with Patrice Motsepe and politicians. It all seemed straight up and we became quite friendly. He even offered me some freelance work, editing his company website and helping with the communications strategy. It seemed like a good way to pay off my ever-growing credit card bills.

Read the full article in DRUM of 18 November 2010

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