There’s still a swagger in the step of “mining billionaire” and now multiple fraud accused Mandla Lamba. The truth is still a stranger to him and he’s as arrogant as ever.
Lamba’s claims that he was a politically connected mining tycoon were exposed as lies by City Press.
He has been in Diepsloot Prison for the past three months, but he’s lost little of the bravado that saw him denounce me in a national radio interview following City Press’s exposure of him as a fraud and fugitive.
“I’ll teach him discipline . . . He will creep around like an insect,” he famously threatened on SAfm. But two weeks ago, he called me from the prison outside Soweto known as “Sun City” asking for an interview.
On Thursday morning, I met him.
“I’m okay here,” he yelled, hunkered behind the microphone on the other side of the glass.
“This is a terrible place, but I’m holding out because I know I’m innocent.”
“Why do you want to see me?” I asked Lamba, who was stylishly dressed in designer jeans and a multicoloured sweater.
Even in Sun City – intended to hold 2600 inmates, but which actually holds about 5000 – money can buy comfort, space and, above all, safety.
“These fraud charges against me are fabricated,” he said.
“You must investigate and you’ll find I’ve been set up by my former (business) partner. The police are also involved,” he insisted.
Lamba is facing trial for, among other things, allegedly selling non-existent minibuses to taxi owners and then disappearing with their money.
For the next few minutes, he rambled on about falsified documents and how the police had taken possession of the vehicles and then blamed the crime on him.
In November last year, City Press exposed Lamba, who at the age of 25 claimed to be the country’s youngest mining billionaire, as a hoax, fraud and con man.
He had spun tales about his mining ventures and acquisitions, his doctorate from a foremost British university and his friendship with mining magnate Cyril Ramaphosa and his wife.
He was also wanted for fraud and culpable homicide.
Lamba was allegedly the drunken driver of a Mercedes-Benz that skipped a robot and slammed at high speed into a car, killing a father and his son. He then ran away and failed to appear in court.
After our exposé, Lamba went on the run and claimed to be living the high life in the US, only to be arrested in Sandton in May, a day after he had posted a picture of himself swilling French champagne.
Lamba faces 15 charges of fraud, theft and culpable homicide. He appeared again on Friday at the Orlando Magistrates Court on the fraud charges.
“I want you to investigate my business partner,” Lamba insisted. “He’s the one that’s guilty.”
“And what about the culpable homicide charges?” I asked.
“No, that case is going well. I hear the charge sheet is missing,” he replied.
“When I come out, I will prove to you that I was very close to Mrs Ramaphosa.
I had an appointment with Mr Ramaphosa when I came back from Europe in April, but couldn’t make it.”
Ramaphosa has publicly denied that he and his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, “mentored” Lamba and said neither of them had ever met him.
“But you have to help me to get out of here and then we’ll sit down and I’ll prove to you I am who I say I am,” he said.
“You must expose that conspiracy against me.”
Visiting time for prisoners awaiting trial is only 15 minutes.
When the microphones fell silent, some inmates and their loved ones continued to yell at one another until warders ushered them out.
Lamba screamed that I should rejoin the queue for another session.
He promised to tell me more about the man responsible for his woes.
I didn’t bother.