All this got me to think about all the scams that people have fallen prey to over the years in this small country. So, for your reading pleasure, here are three of the greatest scams of all times, in no particular order.
I am going to demonstrate how these scammers defrauded Basotho. In my opinion, the three greatest con artists in the history of Lesotho are namely Simon Thebe-ea-Khale (MKM founder), Sergei Mavrodi (MMM architect) and Motsoahae Thabane (ABC founder).
Very few would remember Khauhelo Trust and Thusano Trust, two Ponzi schemes that impoverished many Basotho in the 1990s. The media was pretty small then.
Retirement savings, homes, businesses and in some cases, lives were lost. I was told of a story of a man from Lithabaneng who suffered a stroke and eventually died.
He lost all his retirement savings. Several years ago, my then South African girlfriend and I were the victims of a scam perpetrated by a bad guy who claimed to be a pastor.
I had just sold my first car (Golf 2) and my girlfriend convinced me to invest it in Miracle 2000. The mastermind behind Miracle 2000 was Sibusiso Radebe. In total, we lost about R10 000 in cash, far less than the hundreds of thousands of rands lost by some of his other victims.
In a statement Radebe admitted that “during 1 June 1999 to July at Boksburg and Spruitview I wrongfully and unlawfully accepted deposits from the general public. I was aware that my conduct was unlawful as I was not registered as a public company or a bank in terms of the Banks Act”.
“I wrongfully and unlawfully conducted a harmful business practice in that I accepted investments from at least 13 324 people, amounting to R36 352 400, and offered them effective rates above commercially accepted returns by financial institutions.
Needless to say, I was furious and more than a little embarrassed and I wanted to get even.
I never recovered that money but that was a great lesson for me. So I am a victim of a scam though it happened in South Africa. Every now and then, thousands of Basotho fall victim to fraud, losing millions of maloti.
Most don’t think it could happen to them, but fraudsters use sophisticated ways to target people of all ages. The impact of fraud on individuals, families and businesses can be devastating.
Retirement savings, homes, businesses and in some cases, lives have all been lost. In November 2007, you will remember MKM was shut down by the Central Bank of Lesotho.
Simon Thebe-ea-Khale was the founder and chief architect of this scam. When the scam was shut down almost 400 000 Basotho had lost their monies. Thebe-ea-Khale and his MKM could not account for about M400 million he received from depositors who invested their monies in his company.
This was the biggest swindle in Lesotho’s history. Thebe-ea-Khale remains a free man, in fact he is a hero who stands for elections under the All Basotho Convention (ABC) banner.
Thebe-ea-Khale was supposed to rot in jail but he was rewarded by the All Basotho Convention to stand for elections in 2015. Then came a popular scam, Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM).
It started operating in Lesotho around 2013, promising those who partook in it a 50 percent return on investment. I hated going to one of the local banks because of the long queues of depositors.
MMM, which was started by convicted Russian fraudster, Sergey Mavrodi, guaranteed a return of 30 percent on any fees put into the system which was 20 percent above the repo rate, which is one of the key indicators of a multiplication scheme.
MMM used to operate entirely online, thus making transactions difficult to track. People registered on the website and were allocated a personal office code which they could use to log in.
Investors were then paired with one another and enabled to transfer money to each other. Successful transactions between the anonymous investors were followed by notifications saying the investments would grow by 30 percent monthly.
MMM crashed in 2017, resulting in the loss of huge amounts of money belonging to thousands of Basotho. However, in my humble opinion, the biggest fraud has been on the political front.
When Motsoahae Thomas Thabane set up his ABC party, he promised people heaven on earth. You would swear this guy was a Mosotho Messiah. We allowed him to take care of our money.
Government institutions collapsed in front of our eyes. The ABC is in government today, but Basotho are still living in an economically troubled country.
Basotho are losing their identity. We are running rapidly towards a cliff as though we are crazy. The roof of this nation is on the verge of collapse.
The nation is on the brink of collapse! Basotho have lost over M4 billion to Chinese companies. Thabane has normalised the killing of innocent citizens by armed forces.
Corruption has become second nature of his government officials. They know no other lifestyle but being corrupt. They violate the rights of others every day that their conscience is no longer sensitive to such inhuman violations.
The ABC promised wealth, better prices, and local economic boom when the wool and mohair regulations were being sold to Basotho. This was supposedly what the new wool and mohair was to offer.
But that has not been true for the 40 000 wool and mohair farmers who have been tossed into poverty today! They lost over M800 million. Every important sector of the economy has been crying foul over this scam.
Teachers, the police, army, National Security Services (NSS), factory workers, farmers, small businesses, taxi owners and general public are all victims of this scam. The ABC led government has so far failed Basotho.
The majority of citizens are getting more and more despondent every day after elections because they do not see any positive results coming out of their governments in terms of the pre-election promises of economic performance, solving their economic problems and improving their welfare and quality of life.
Basotho are growing increasingly frustrated with unemployment, corruption, poor infrastructure, state-sponsored Chinese empowerment, and poor education.
The majority of Basotho voted the ABC into power and then waited for amazing things to happen to them and for them through government. They were in for a major disappointment.
The promises have not been fulfilled. The ABC, like all Ponzi schemes, is headed for collapse. All the three scams cited in this article, were run by people with very little financial education, background or experience.
We should prevent these types of crimes through awareness campaigns. Basotho should make sure that those who watch over our money should face the toughest scrutiny themselves.