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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

IDs and Sassa cards found in mashonisa raid, six arrested

With elections next week, thousands will not be able to vote because their IDs are being held by mashonisas.

Six people have been arrested for allegedly running an illegal loan scheme in Mpumalanga, stealing their clients’ identity documents (ID) and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant cards.

Police and the Hawks swooped in on the six in a search and seize operation on Tuesday. They were assisted by officials from the National Credit Regulation (NCR) and Sassa.

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When law enforcement bust the suspects they found bank cards, Sassa grant cards, and IDs of clients.

“During preliminary investigation, it was established that the suspects were retaining clients’ bank cards to secure payments on their cash loans. These cards were illegally kept in order to ensure that clients pay back their dues monthly with inflated interests,” said police spokesperson Captain Dineo Sekgotodi.

ALSO READ: Loan sharks and the curse of poverty

The suspects, aged between 23 and 52, are expected to appear in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on charges of contravening the National Credit Act.

Loan sharks ‘ruthlessly prey on struggling South Africans’

Provincial head of the Hawks Major-General Nicholas Jacobus Gerber welcomed the arrest and urged South Africans to stop doing business with unregistered operators.

He said loan sharks, or mashonisas as they are known, “ruthlessly prey on financially struggling South Africans”.

ALSO READ: ‘I need loan sharks to live’: The human toll of Postbank’s ‘technical glitch’

There have been several reports of mashonisas accompanying clients, especially the elderly, to ATMs to make sure they get their money back.

In 2020, Sassa grant beneficiaries in two villages in the Eastern Cape said they were threatened at gunpoint and forced to hand over their cards and change their PINs, reported GroundUp.

WATCH: Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi explains the scourge

No way to vote

With elections next week, thousands will not be able to vote because mashonisas are holding their IDs.

Ahead of the previous national elections in 2019, GroundUp detailed how a 33-year-old East London resident was unable to cast her ballot.

An alleged mashonisa said clients had to pay the price of taking a loan, regardless of whether it was elections.

“Our clients understand the procedures for borrowing the money. If they take our money, we keep their IDs until they pay. Election time or no election time. And we are not forcing anyone.”

The cost of lending money against your Sassa card

Presenting before the Western Cape legislature in 2022, Sassa said arrested mashonisas often ran house shops and spaza shops.

It said that as of September 2022, it had confiscated 3 308 cards and R313 000 cash. A total of 109 people had been arrested in 106 cases.

Here’s what could happen if you give your grant card to a mashonisa

Sassa said those who give their grant cards to loan sharks would be sent warning letters.

“A police investigating officer will be present during this engagement to take down affidavits from beneficiaries for criminal prosecution purposes.

“The Fraud Management and Compliance Department (FMCD) will assist with criminal prosecution.”

While those affected would get their grant cards back, any cash confiscated by police would be forfeited to the state, unless instructed by a court.

“Sassa is working very closely with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to curb this scourge of crime perpetrated against the most vulnerable and poorest of the poor from our communities and society,” it said.