Fidentia investors vow to get tough

Cape Town - About 500 ex-mineworkers are hoping to sue the curators of Fidentia after losing millions of rands in investments, a representative said on Wednesday.

Edwin Thembalenkosi Shibani said they did not blame former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown for their losses.

"Yes, we're blaming the curators, not Brown. That's why we said we're going to open a case against the curators if the law allows us to do so," Shibani said on the steps of the Western Cape High Court.

"I'm not happy at all about the punishment of Brown because there's no money in our pockets. To be sentenced or not to be sentenced means nothing to us as mineworkers."

Brown was freed after paying a fine of R150 000, which was his sentence handed down by the court on Wednesday morning for two fraud convictions.

Had he not paid the fine, he would have been imprisoned for 36 months.

Brown was sentenced to 18 months in jail on each count, suspended for four years on condition he not be convicted for fraud again.

He was recently convicted after he admitted to misrepresentations he made regarding investments entrusted to him, by Mantadia Asset Trust Company (Matco) and the Transport Education and Training Authority.

Matco, subsequently renamed the Living Hands Umbrella Trust, was responsible for paying money from the mineworkers' provident fund to the widows and orphans of workers killed in mine accidents.

Around 20 ex-mineworkers attended Brown's sentencing.

Shibani said many more would have made the court appearance but had to work to feed their children.

Dines Gihwala and George Papadakis were appointed the curators of Fidentia by the Financial Services Board (FSB) in 2007.

The FSB's chief financial officer Dawood Seedat testified during Brown's sentencing arguments that they launched an investigation into Fidentia after receiving complaints of mismanagement of client's funds.

The investigation spanned from June 2006 to the end of January 2007.

Shibani said the curators "were talking lies" when they said they had paid out the investors.

"I think the people are very, very angry because they want their money in their hands," he said.

The ex-mineworkers demanded that they be given ownership of Sante Hotel Resort & Spa in the Cape Winelands and a farm in the Eastern Cape, both assets of Fidentia.

Brown said on Wednesday he would not rest until the investors had their money back.

Dudley Johnson, 70, who invested R200 000 through Antheru trust in 2004, said he was glad Brown was not imprisoned.

"If Arthur had to get a prison sentence, who would have helped the beneficiaries to get their money?" he asked.

"We got our money [from Brown] until the FSB walked into Arthur's offices and closed him down. Arthur paid us right up until that point."

Johnson said he struggled to survive because he had gone from receiving R3 000 a month in retirement money to nothing.

"It baffles me why the curators have taken so long to pay out beneficiaries. For six years, they could have managed something... yet they get their fee every month."

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday the State might appeal against Brown's sentence.

"The position now is that we have asked for the transcripts of the judgment as well as the sentencing," Western Cape NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said.

"We'll study them with a view of seeing whether we can apply for leave to appeal the sentence."

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