A 26-YEAR-OLD Bulawayo woman, who duped nearly half a dozen home-seekers of US$690 on the pretext of providing them with accommodation, heaved a sigh of relief after she was shown mercy by a Bulawayo magistrate who sentenced her to perform 770 hours of unpaid labour at a local school.
Langalihle Dube, from Newton West suburb, who was convicted on her own plea of guilty to five counts of fraud by Racheal Mukanga, was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment of which six months were suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.
Another eight months imprisonment was suspended on condition that she restitutes the complainants $8 500 (Learnmore Masuka), $20 400 (Darlington Mawodzeke), $4 250 (Bridget Wusimbe), $18 500 (George Chikuvadze and $18 700 (Munyaradzi Goma).
The remaining 22 months were suspended on condition that she completes 770 hours of community service at Greenfield Primary School.
In mitigation, a married Dube pleaded for mercy, saying she had two minor children and had a heart problem adding that she was also prepared to restitute the victims.
The court heard that on 9 July 2021 and at around 7am Darlington Mawodzeke from Bellevue suburb saw an advert on a WhatsApp group which had been placed by Dube to the effect that there was a house available to let. Surprisingly, the house in question is where she stays.
When he contacted Dube she told him to rush to the house saying she wanted to go out. Mawodzeke quickly proceeded to the house where he was told to pay the money.
The complainant, the court heard, told Dube that he had left the money at home, and Dube suggested that they should go together to collect it.
The complainant agreed and they went together and Dube was given US$240 and went away.
On 26 July 2021 when Mawodzeke went to Newton West so that he would get ready to move in, he received the shock of his life when he found the accused’s husband who told him that the accused was not the owner of the house and the house was not even available.
Dube promised to pay back Mawodzeke his money but she failed to do so leading him to report the matter to the police.
It was also proved that on 9 July 2021 and at around 7 am using the same modus operandi Dube placed an advert on Facebook that there was a house to let. Learnmore Masuka responded to the advert and on 11 July 2021 and at around 1 pm they met in town where Masuka gave Dube US$100.
Masuka only realised that he had been duped when he went to see the property where upon arrival, he was told by the occupant that Dube was not the owner of the house.
When he contacted the accused, she promised to pay back the money but she never did until the complainant reported the matter to the police.
The court further heard that on the same day Masuka was duped, Bridget Usimbe from Emganwini suburb saw an advert on a WhatsApp group to the effect that there was a house which was also available for occupation.
She then told her brother Fiselani Mzizi to meet the accused so that he would see the house and pay the money.
Not realising that the property didn’t belong to her, Mzizi gave Dube US$300. On 23 July 2021 Mzizi was tipped by his friend that the house he paid for was not available for letting and when he made efforts to recover the money, he managed to get US$250.
The court heard that on 14 July 2021 and at around midday Gorge Chikuvadze from Morningside suburb went to Dube’s place after he was told by one of his relatives that there was a room at Dube’s place. Upon arrival he was shown a room and paid US$100 to Dube.
On 27 July 2021 Chikuvadze sent Dube a message saying he wanted to move in but he was told that the room was no longer available and he was going to get back his money.
On 2 August 2021 he started making follow-ups to recover his money and when he called Dube on her phone it was answered by her husband who told him that she had been arrested for a series of fraud cases involving duping people on the pretext of providing them accommodation. That is when he also went to the police to file a report of fraud against her.
It is reported that on 18 July 2021 Munyaradzi Gama from Mahatshula North suburb was also duped of US$200 when he was introduced to the accused by an agent who claimed Dube was in the business of looking for houses to rent on behalf of other people.
Gama went to Dube’s place where he was shown the house she is staying and paid US$200 before he was told to come on the 1st of August 2021.
On 24 July 2021 Gama phoned Dube saying he wanted to drop some of his property at the house and the accused told him that she was out of town and she would inform him when she was back.
The court heard that Gama was then informed on 1 August 2021 by the agent who had introduced him to the accused that she had been arrested and that is when he went to Donnington Police Station and also filed a report of fraud against Dube.