For more than six months almost 3 000 Facebook “friends” were captivated and even charmed by fugitive Mandla Lamba as he detailed his sojourns in exotic locations.
“I am having tea at Pelican Cafe on Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. This lady walked in and gave me her business card,” he wrote earlier this year on his Facebook page and also posted a picture of himself in Miami.
“Now she is busy winking at me as she blows me a kiss.”
As Lamba’s Facebook friends sang his praises and wished him a merry flight from police investigators, a tracing unit from the Organised Crime Unit on Johannesburg’s West Rand was also following his updates on the site.
When he told his devotees earlier this month that “I am walking to the mall... no bodyguards... walking all alone... wow”, police also read his post.
Shortly afterwards they received information that he was at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg, and they pounced.
Lamba, once billed as South Africa’s “youngest billionaire”, appeared in court this week on charges of fraud, theft and culpable homicide relating to a 2007 car accident in which a father and his young son died.
Lamba was allegedly the drunken driver of a Mercedes Benz that skipped a robot and slammed at high speed into a car transporting a Roodepoort family. He fled from the scene of the accident and failed to appear in court.
Police spokesperson Dlamini Lungelo said police were now investigating 16 cases of fraud and theft against Lamba and more people may come forward.
Lamba was exposed late last year as a conman, liar and a fraudster who was wanted by police for culpable homicide and theft.
At the time, he was making outlandish claims about his wealth and business acquisitions that were splashed in Sunday newspapers and even on respected mining websites.
He frequented Johannesburg’s trendiest nightspots, where he spent up to R50 000 a night, drove around in a convertible Mercedes and said he was living “lavishly, very corporate”.
Every one of his claims turned out to be untrue – from his doctorate and other degrees to his international and local mining assets. His I-am-a-man-of-God charade and alleged friendship and familiarity with mining magnate Cyril Ramaphosa were also fabricated.
Police are unclear as to whether Lamba travelled to the US and Nigeria while on the run.
Border posts were alerted to be on the lookout for him and his passport was flagged.
If he has travelled, he left South Africa with a false travel document.
“I am not trying to be the next Bill Gates, just the best Mandla Lamba the world has ever seen,” he wrote, purportedly from Miami’s art deco neighbourhood on South Beach.
“All I do is win, win, win no matter what. I got money on my mind I can never get enough.”
Lamba’s page also revealed that while on the run he was still out for cash.
“I have a business and... you need a minimum of R10 million or even more do contact me I will turn ur life around,” he wrote.
Shortly before his arrest Lamba wrote: “I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes.”
He is currently in Diepsloot prison – more commonly known as Sun City – which is 240% full.
He is being held in the awaiting-trial section, where more than 5 000 prisoners are held in a facility that is designed to house only 2 600 inmates.