He, together with about 200 other Swazis have fallen victim to a scheme that was meant to be an investment only to later discover that it was an insurance broker that collapsed and left them with nothing.
Sharemax is the company which has now been labelled as a property syndicate scheme following its failure to pay out promised funds to its investors. The SEC pensioner, Jabulani Nkambule from Ezulwini, lost about E100 000 which he had invested in the company following his retirement.
He had used part of his payout to purchase a tractor for his farming business.
In total, Swazis had contributed about E33 million into Sharemax, money they are not likely to get even though they are pinning their hopes on the South African Government to assist them. When asked about the scheme, Nkambule said it was owned by a Caucasian with its offices in Manzini, which later moved to the Gables in Ezulwini.
Nkambule, who was among those elected into the interim committee chaired by Benjamin Sibandze to deal with the issue, said there were many Swazis who lost their money to the scheme. “I think it is now better to engage government to intervene in the matter,” Nkambule said in an interview.
Sibandze who invested E300 000 into the scheme said most Swazis were overwhelmed by the12 per cent per annum interest that was promised by the sales agents.
“I had invested the money as hard cash and was expecting interest and now this? It’s a sad state of affairs really,” he said.
Sibandze said they had tried ensuring that this was not a pyramid scheme and their hearts were won when the officials informed them that certain high-ranking officials were also part of the company.
“He produced proof that the company was registered in Swaziland and that it had been operating for 12 years. I personally joined it in February 2010 and received a certain interest until July of that same year. From October of that year, I never received a cent. When I called the Pretoria office after being informed that the local office had closed, I was told that there was an error,” Sibandze narrated.
He said in their findings, after a series of follow-ups, they found that the scheme was operating as an insurance broker, not an investment company as they were made to believe.
“We found that it had not been properly registered in South Africa and was banned from operating in that country,” said Sibandze.
The chairman said while still negotiating for their money, they were informed that Sharemax was extinct.
“We found out that there was Nova who had started operating through the expense of the investors.
“We were, however, told that Nova had nothing to do with Sharemax. They later acknowledged that Nova replaced Sharemax and promised to repay us after 10 years without the interest though. We were shown cement and building material that was meant to be used by the company to build a structure as an investment drive,” said Sibandze.
While still trying to make sense of the whole scenario, the investors allegedly received a threatening letter from the former Managing and Financial Director of Sharemax, Dominique Haese.
Haese heads two companies; Nova Property Group and Frontier Asset Management and Investments, which have taken over the Sharemax property portfolio in terms of restructuring. In her letter, Haese claimed that there was no link between Sharemax and the Nova and Frontier companies and that Sharemax no longer existed in terms of the scheme arrangement.
Haese told the investors that, should they persist in seeking repayment of their investments in Sharemax via the financial advice ombud – also known as the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services (FAIS) Ombud – they may have chosen to abandon and repudiate their interests in the new companies.
The Financial Advice Ombud, Noluntu Bam, ordered that Sharemax directors and financial advisers should jointly and severally repay the investment losses of the investors.
However, nothing has come forth as yet and the matter continues being handled by the SA authorities, mainly the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services.
A total of 34 000 people fell prey to the alleged investment company, with about E4.4 billion having been invested.
These figures include both Swazi and South African investors.
Attempts to get a comment from the Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) proved futile as his phone was switched off.