- A decade ago, Mandla Lamba was caught out after lying about being a billionaire.
- He served time in jail, but he's now back with a new venture.
- Lamba has enlisted the services of TV personality Somizi Mhlongo to help him sell shares in the new company.
Fake billionaire Mandla Lamba is back with a bang, attempting to sell shares in his latest venture to the 4.1 million Instagram followers of TV personality Somizi Mhlongo.
While Lamba previously claimed to be South Africa's "youngest billionaire" and a mining tycoon with close ties to President Cyril Ramaphosa, various reports confirmed that he had lied about his business holdings in the mining sector.
City Press found he was involved in selling funeral policies and insurance without being registered with the financial authorities. Ramaphosa said Lamba's claims of an association were "laughable". Lamba was arrested a decade ago on charges of theft and culpable homicide, and served time in jail.
On Friday, Mhlongo showcased Lamba - who he addressed as "doctor", despite Lamba's claim to a doctorate long having been discredited - in a broadcast on the celebrity's Instagram channel, with Lamba offering a "special" on shares in his company. He also promised high returns.
Following criticism of Lamba's appearance on his Instagram page, Mhlongo told Fin24 that he doesn't do due diligence on the companies that use him as an "influencer". Mhlongo says while Lamba served jail-time, he was rehabilitated and that everyone deserved a second change.
- READ | Mining tycoon a lying fake
During the broadcast, Lamba claimed that his company Agilitee will produce four models of electric bikes, including the "Agilitee Somizi" inspired by Mhlongo. The bikes, priced from R48 000, will go on sale later this month, Lamba said - and a double-cab bakkie was also planned.
Lamba's claims included that the bikes would have "face-scan technology" and that hundreds of bikes had already been ordered from Kenya. Owners will be able to swap depleted bike batteries for recharged batteries at stations across the country, with 100 planned by the end of the year.
Saying that Agilitee is the first electric-vehicle manufacturer from Africa "to go to market", he offered Mhlongo's followers a chance to buy shares in the company at a "special" rate, which ended on Friday.
According to Mhlongo's Instagram page, which listed the "special" rates, investors could get "shares worth R50 000 at R5 000". Investors are encouraged to send a WhatsApp message as confirmation of their bank deposits.
Lamba said investors only had to pay 10% of the full amount, and that dividend payments will be used to cover the rest.
He also made assurances about prospective investment returns, when the shares will supposedly be listed on the JSE.
"Right now, it's the last day you can get the shares of Agilitee on a social media platform. By the time you get them on the market the price will be higher than what we are selling them at now," Lamba said, a reference to a proposed deal with JSE-listed property developer Visual International Holdings.
Announced in May, the deal will involve Visual's "share for share acquisition" of Agilitee SA from Agilitee Propriety, which is controlled by Lamba.
The two companies this week again confirmed the deal, with Visual saying it will be "involved in the role [sic] out of the Agilitee franchisee sites, in the acquisition and managing of properties", while Agilitee said partnering with Visual "will enable it to springboard its growth in the listed environment".
The deal is still subject to approval from, among others, the JSE - and Visual said it still needed to get financial information from Agilitee.
Visual is facing stark financial troubles, with its auditors casting doubt on its ability to continue as a going concern: its current liabilities exceed its current assets by almost R11.7 million, while the company only earned income of R23 173 over the past year.
In addition, Lamba doesn't have a sterling track record when it comes to seeing transactions through: at least two of his mining deals - one with the Canadian mining group Mexivada and another with Bauba Platinum - collapsed because he could not come up with the required money. A spokesperson for Mexivada told City Press their deal to sell a mine to Lamba was scrapped after they discovered he was a "fraud".
Accountant, academic and Fin24 commentator Khaya Sithole blasted Lamba's investment offering on Twitter, pointing out his problematic past and Visual's precarious financial state:
Meanwhile on Instagram today, a business launch was the big story of the day. An Instagram live session involving Somizi and Dr Mandla Lamba was the big moment...— Khaya Sithole (@CoruscaKhaya) July 2, 2021
He also questioned whether Mhlongo was an "innocent bystander", citing his sponsored appearances at Agilitee events.
Mhlongo told Fin24 he's not an investor or stakeholder in Agilitee, and that he only reviews the contract he has with the companies which use him as an influencer - and not the nature of their business.
Agilitee also issued a statement following the criticism, saying it is proud of its founder for "even overcoming prison".
"Agilitee has arrived, unfortunately, not everyone will be happy about the person who brought it, but the Board of Agilitee are proud of our Founder and his ability to turn around a messy past to a great future."