More people have come forward with accusations against Swakopmund Chief Executive Officer Alfeus Benjamin after the Windhoek Observer reported a fortnight ago that he was allegedly involved in a land scam that defrauded about 300 desperate home seekers.
The Windhoek Observer reported that an agent who worked in cahoots with Benjamin when he worked as CEO of the Tsumeb Municipality apparently disappeared after collecting close to a million dollars.
Several people told this publication that the agent, known to those who gave her money, only as ‘Ellen’, allegedly hoodwinked at least 297 home seekers at the behest of the town’s former CEO.
This week, at least four more people claimed in separate interviews that they too lost thousands of dollars through the scam.
A man who claimed to be a Tsumeb-based businessman said he lost money after he bought a plot from the town’s former CEO.
The businessman said he approached Benjamin when he heard stories that the municipality was servicing plots in an area behind Otjikoto Secondary School.
“I went to the CEO who told me that I had to pay money to him if I wanted to secure a plot. I talked to him directly, but he insisted that I should give cash to a lady who was acting as a middle person. I paid the money and the lady brought a pre-allocation letter to me which I accepted because it looked original,” the businessman alleged.
He said he spoke to the CEO again a few months later and was assured that the process to get the plots ready for occupation was progressing well.
“That was two years ago. We have been waiting for this long.”
He said he started having doubts last year when he heard that the CEO would be leaving Tsumeb to become the new CEO of Swakopmund Municipality.
“We had not been allocated our plots so I started having questions. I wondered how we were going to get our plots when he will not be there anymore, but again he promised me that everything was going according to plan.
“I might be leaving, but you guys will still get your plots. You should wait until the servicing of the land and the installation of street lights is complete,” Benjamin is alleged to have said.
The businessman said his fears turned into a nightmare when he tried to call Benjamin in January, only to find out that he had changed his phone number.
“We tried all other means to get hold of him and it was not easy to get him. When I finally got hold of him, he told me that I should give him time to sort things out.”
But again, nothing changed despite the assurances. It was only around April/May that the Tsumeb Municipality called him for a meeting with the Acting CEO Caroline Damases.
Interestingly, Damases told the Windhoek Observer two weeks ago that she was not aware of the public allegations levelled against Benjamin.
Damases is alleged to have asked the businessman how how he got a pre-allocation letter.
“I told her that I got it through the former CEO after which Damases asked me if I knew that Benjamin ran a fraudulent land scheme.
“I asked how I could have known that when I had talked to the CEO himself and he issued us with original papers from the office. She then promised to talk to the town’s councillors to see how they could assist those of us that had paid money to Benjamin through his agent.”
He said he has been waiting ever since to hear from the council on the way forward.
Benjamin refused on two occasions to answer emailed questions sent to him. He told the Windhoek Observer on Thursday that he will not be responding to the allegations against him.
“Let the people come through with their accusations, but there is nothing that I am going to say. If people want, I will respond to the allegations through my lawyers. There is nothing that I am going to say,” he said.
Another self-declared victim of the land scam alleged that he had to ask his cousin who works at the Office of the Ombudsman to intervene after several efforts to get hold of Benjamin did not yield any results.
He said his cousin used official channels to speak to Benjamin who within minutes called him and arranged repayment of one of the promised plots.
“I paid for two plots at N$45,000 each, and this guy [Benjamin] refunded money for one plot in April through a guy called Anthony after my cousin from the Office of the Ombudsman intervened,” the source said.
Another source said the Tsumeb Municipality advised them to recover their money directly from Benjamin.
“They told us that we have to get our money from Benjamin himself, but the list [of people who lost money through the scam] is too long, so I don’t think that he will be able to repay all that money,” the source said.
“I also think that they are covering up for each other. You cannot tell me that they [Tsumeb officials] did not know of Benjamin’s dealings and yet they have a list with our names. Benjamin also has a secretary; he will never do typing work himself. Are you telling me that Benjamin can eat money from all of us alone? They must come up with a plausible excuse.”
Damases told the Windhoek Observer on Thursday that the victims of the land scam were not telling the truth.
She said no one has ever complained to the council about ervens that were sold to them directly by Benjamin.
“I don’t know anything about that. So if they have put complaints in writing to the council, let them give it to you because I am not aware of any complaints to the council.”
Asked if she was 100 percent sure that she has never called anyone to her office regarding the land scam, Damases said those that she called came for something else.
“Let them be honest about why I called them. They should tell you what the discussion was about.”
“I called them because I was asked by somebody else whether I am aware of a lady that you interviewed in the paper that has been selling land to people. That is what I was told and that is what I was asking the people, not about Mr Benjamin.
“Why are they not telling you the truth? Let them give you proof that they have complained to council and we have not yet responded.