stokvels 'conned'

A BUSINESSMAN has been accused of pocketing tens of thousands of rands from stokvels lured by promises of high returns on their investments.

Dozens of stokvels had invested with Simon White's Stokvel Company.

After pocketing their money and living the high life, White confessed yesterday that he was broke.

The chief executive of Stokvel Company and Stokvel Media, which publishes magazines such as Township Property and Stokvel Times, says his scheme has collapsed because of fraud by one of his employees. Now bigcompanies he tapped for advertising are also demanding their money back.

Sowetan confronted him with complaints that he had made a killing from his burial scheme and a savings investment plan called My Stokvel Loyalty Card.

"We refunded some. We want to refund all but we are having cash flow problems.

"An employee made false promises to people and now we are sitting with problems," White said yesterday at the multimillion-rand mansion he is building in Randburg.

White has also admitted to having helped himself to R600000 in pension fund and UIF contributions he deducted from his employees.

Paulos Khumalo of Rekaofela Club in Soweto said his league had paid R10000 in monthly premiums and a R500 joining fee into the Stokvel Company's funeral plan.

"We also moved our investment portfolio from Standard Bank to his company after we were promised higher returns.

"We realised we were living a lie after the company failed to give us a letter acknowledging our contributions. When we confronted them they said they had not received our registration fee, yet they were busy deducting monthly premiums," Khumalo said.

He said the Rekaofela Club had since demanded a refund.

Boikarabelo Club in Kroonstaad, Free State, also pulled out of the company's funeral plan in June because of "false promises".

White acknowledged the problems but said other stokvels had "derived benefits" from his company.

Big companies such as ATKA Pharma, African Bank and Mutual & Federal are also hounding White after they paid him huge sums of money for adverts in his magazines.