Looting: Scammers exploit goodhearted farmers

A police officer inspects the damage at one of the recently looted malls in Gauteng. Photo: Getty Images

A police officer inspects the damage at one of the recently looted malls. Photo: Getty Images

While farmers across the country are rushing to donate fresh produce to some of the disaster-stricken communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, scammers are trying to cash in on this.

Nerudo Mregi, a vegetable farmer from Springs, east of Johannesburg, offered to donate vegetables to one such scammer only known as @ellenmhlang on Twitter.

This fake profile had social media users worried after claiming that her mother’s vegetable store was looted and burnt down by protestors last week.

Nerudo Mregi, a vegetable farmer from Springs, east of Johannesburg. Photo:Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Mregi was praised by people after offering to help @ellenmhlang and her “mother” revive their agribusiness. However, it was later revealed that the real Ellen Mhlanga didn’t even have a Twitter account.

He explains, “Someone who knows Ellen commented on the post [saying that] scammers had apparently copied the real Ellen’s Facebook account information and created a [fake] Twitter account.”

The Twitter post has since been deleted.

Mregi tells Food For Mzansi that because of the Covid-19 lockdown, they were not able to sell the produce they grew. “As a farmer, you don’t want to through away food. Hence, we tried to find people that we could help.”

‘Verify before donating’

He adds, “I reached out because at the moment we can’t even sell our stock. If we can help another family keep their business going that would be great. With all the looting that’s been happening, vendors have also been affected.”

The department of agriculture, land reform and rural development has taken note of the incident and calls on farmers and the broader public to be cautious of scammers asking for donations after events in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Reggie Ngcobo, the spokesperson for minister Thoko Didiza, says, “They must first verify the information before attempting to assist. We all understand that this is a very difficult time for the country and, indeed, for the sector.

ALSO READ: 20 tonnes of food for disaster-stricken people

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