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Herbalist jailed for 15 years over fraud

CRIMINAL activities by some foreigners were among the reasons behind xenophobic attacks which left several people dead and families displaced last year, the New Brighton Court heard.

This was the view of magistrate NK Dungane when he jailed herbalist Garry Saum Ssempija for 15 years for defrauding a Uitenhage pensioner of R540000.

The victim, Jurie Chessman Harris, had worked for VW for more than 30 years and received a substantial pension from the car manufacturer.

In sentencing Ssempija, Dungane agreed with the investigating officer, Inspector Glen van Eck, who had testified that it was not uncommon for foreigners to be involved in criminal offences and the locals who accommodated them feeling cheated.

“This may be a factor which led to the xenophobic phenomenon on foreigners. It is not the first case of a similar nature that I have dealt with,” he said.

Harris‘s woes started in April 2007 when he was introduced to “Professor” Ssempija, who promised to heal his stomach ailment.

A gardener had referred Harris to the Ugandan herbalist who operated from the Bears building in Caledon Street, Uitenhage.

During a consultation Harris mentioned his pension payout and immediately Ssempija created the impression that ancestors wanted to bless him.

In May 2007, Ssempija convinced Harris that he had spoken to the “ancestors”, who were keen to make Harris a “successful businessman”.

He told Harris the “ancestors” wanted to speak to him in person. He was then led into a dark room where a voice identified itself as the “head ancestor”. The voice instructed him to open a bank account and to hand the card and pin number to the herbalist.

He also claimed to hear the voices of “ancestors” and to have seen a big brown coffin placed in a dark room containing an alleged R2-million which could be his at a later stage.

On four occasions between May 12 and June 22, 2007, Harris withdrew R540000 from his bank account and handed it to Ssempija to be blessed.

He did not get his life savings back. The state suspects it was the work of a syndicate.

“The complainant was cheated of part with his life savings under the pretext that he would be blessed by ancestors.

“He worked hard hoping that when he retired he would have something for the remainder of his life,” Dungane said.

Source: The Herald

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