Eastern Cape villagers have been scammed out of thousands of rands after falling victim to scammers claiming they can fast-track their land claim payouts, according to chief land claims commissioner Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo.
She cautions that claimants should be wary of persons who offer what is ordinarily free government services in exchange for payment.
“Ruthless scammers are swindling the vulnerable land claimants in the Eastern Cape out of their hard-earned money whilst purporting to help finalise their claims,” she confirms.
Land claimants from areas including Sterkspruit, Mount Ayliff, Mbizana, Flagstaff and Idutywa have been duped by scammer. Ntloko-Gobodo says government programmes do not require citizens to pay any money for services.
Earlier this month officials from the Office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner: Eastern Cape met with members of the South African Police Services and land claimants in Mount Ayliff after it emerged the scam had infiltrated the area.
"As the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR) we want to advise communities to first get into contact with the local land claims office for advice, guidance or information on the status of claims before deciding to embark on a parallel process that require them to pay money,” Ntloko-Gobodo advises.
“Government is the custodian of the land restitution programme, and the CRLR has the mandate on behalf of government to investigate and processes restitution claims in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act (Act 22 of 1994). We are best placed to assess the need for external assistance and can determine if such assistance, even from attorneys is warranted and in good faith,” she adds.
Ntloko-Gobodo says land claimants who want to seek advice on the need for external assistance can contact the office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner: Eastern Cape on 043-700-6000, even during the lockdown period, for clarity.
She fears the perpetrators of the scam will capitalise on this period to access more communities and to persuade them to part with their money.
The commissioner says she’s not letting this scam continue as she has tasked officials to embark on a concerted effort to raise awareness about this scam and its permutations among communities in the province, and to intensify district-based stakeholder engagements.
“At present we do not have information on the number of people that are affected, particularly because these are different communities. What we do know however is that the scammers are moving to different areas in the province and that they are mainly targeting community groupings,” says the commission.
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It also confirmed that action to get to the bottom of the matter is underway.
“The Office of the Regional Land Claims Commissioner in Eastern Cape has reported the matter to the South African Police Services in Mount Ayliff. The community of Brooksnek in Mount Ayliff has opened a criminal case with the SAPS,” commission confirms.