Victims of pension fund scam wanted after kingpin's arrest

Bogus lawyer Mahlako and Co charged with R15m fraud

Mandla Khoza Freelance journalist
Tshepo Cleditus Mahlako also owns a cash loan company which he runs from Mbombela.
Tshepo Cleditus Mahlako also owns a cash loan company which he runs from Mbombela.
Image: Supplied

A R15m fraud case in Mpumalanga has lifted the lid on a syndicate that allegedly worked with court officials, a bogus lawyer and an official from the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) to target people waiting for their payouts.

Five people have been arrested so far. They appeared in court and were released on bail.

Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson Capt Dineo Sekgotodi confirmed that they currently have 16 victims and that more affected families have since come forward.

A woman whose aunt lost almost R3m said not only do they want the suspected kingpin and bogus lawyer, Tshepo Mahlako of TC Mahlako Attorneys, to be handed a hefty sentence, but that they want their monies too.

"We don't want sentencing only for this man; we also want our monies because we are suffering," said Lindiwe Nkosi, whose aunt lost R2.97m.

"This man is evil; he kept running away from us as a family for almost three years because we last had communication with him in 2021. We now hear that he has been arrested and it's the first time since that period seeing him." 

Mahlako, Duncan Mohale, Thobile Nkosi, Adelaide Manana and Bongani Tsobolo were all arrested on May 2 and charged with fraud and money laundering.

Thobile Nkosi.
Thobile Nkosi.
Image: Supplied

According to the Hawks, Mahlako,43, is not a qualified lawyer and used to work as a clerk in the KaBokweni magistrate's court in Mbombela before reinventing himself into a lawyer. He was the one who victims were referred to when they wanted to claim their loved ones' inheritance.

"The modus operandi was that he would connive with government officials and others to lure these victims to use his services to retrieve their inheritance from the government [pension fund]... He also [crooked] private companies, mostly estates.

"However when the money comes, he would disappear and the majority [of his clients] did not get even a cent," said Sekgotodi.

Nkosi, 35, is a GEPF employee. Allegations are that when victims went to the GEPF offices to claim following their relatives' deaths, Nkosi told them that she knew of a way to fast-track their payments and then referred them to Mahlako.

Duncan Mohale, 33, and Adelaide Manana, 35, worked as administrators at Mahlako Attorneys, managing victims' files.

Bongani Tsobolo, 35, who also worked at Mahlako Attorneys, is also one of the people who allegedly lured victims to use the services of the law firm.

Mahlako was released on R60,000 bail last week while Nkosi, Mohale and Manana are out on R30,000 bail each. 

The state opposed Tsobolo's bail application, citing that he had committed the crime while out on bail for similar crimes in Johannesburg.

Duncan Mduduzi Mohale.
Duncan Mduduzi Mohale.
Image: Supplied

Lindiwe Nkosi said after her uncle died, they went to KaBokweni magistrate's court for some paperwork and a man they met there working as a clerk gave them Mahlako's business card saying they must call him as he will fast-track their claim.

She said as of 2019, they used to go to Mahlako's office and consulted with him.

After a while, she said, he stopped responding to their calls and that's when they decided to go to his office at the Mpumalanga High Court. However, they were later told that he had moved.

"We searched for his other office in [Mbombela] CBD and did not find him.

"His secretary made us leave our numbers but we received no calls and when we called Mahlako would not respond.

"That was around 2021 and last Friday we heard that he was arrested and we came to court.

"My aunt is a pensioner, she was supposed to get R2.97m. She is sick now, and relies on [old age] pension from government where her husband worked many years for her to be happy," said Nkosi. 

"We don't want him to be sentenced only, he must pay the monies because companies and government have paid him and he disappeared with the money. They must sell his belongings, freeze his banks and give us our money."

Another victim, Noxolo Mndawe, told Sowetan that she was referred to Mahlako by an official from the master of the high court after her husband died in 2022.

She said her husband had about R137,000 and she had hoped to send some of that money to the late man's child in KwaZulu-Natal to help with his school fees and other needs.

"But since I met this lawyer, our trouble started because the money was sent to his account by the bank and we never got a cent.

"I only need the child who my husband left with his mother in KZN to get something from his father but now it seems like I took everything from my husband and never cared about the child. I came to this court as soon as I heard that this man has been arrested and I formed part of the case," said Mndawe.

Mahlako, Mohale, Nkosi Manana and Tsobolo will be back in court on June 24 .

Allegations are that Mahlako never operated from one place for a long time. Victims claimed that he had worked at offices at Mpumalanga High Court, moved to Mbombela CBD where he operated for three months then moved to Aero Park where he is alleged to have been for three months as well.

Sekgotodi urged people who fell prey to the crime to report the matter to the investigating officer W/O Portia Sanderson on 082-772-2318 or Col Jerry Maphanga on 072-575-4274. 


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