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Ms Langanani Julian Mamburu, a hawker from Madombidzha, is hoping that the local Small Claims Court can help her get her R4,000 back. Photo supplied.

Hawker takes on Checkers in court to get her R4,000 back

Date: 23 November 2023 By: 

By Bernard Chiguvare and Anton van Zyl

Langanani Julian Mamburu, a hawker from Madombidzha near Louis Trichardt, is hoping that the Small Claims Court can come to her rescue. A few weeks ago, she lost the R4,000 she tried to send to her daughter, using the local Checkers store’s Money Market Facility. All her efforts to trace the money have been in vain, and her last hope is now pinned on the justice system.

Mamburu is a vendor, selling food supplements and beauty-care products to her customers in and around Madombidzha. She explains that her ordeal started on 4 October this year when she had to rush to Louis Trichardt to send money to her two daughters. Her one daughter, Elsie, is a student at the TVET College in Makwarela, in Sibasa, and she urgently needed cash to pay her rent. Sibasa is about 90km from Louis Trichardt.

According to Mamburu, she went to the Checkers store in central Louis Trichardt where she used the store’s Money Market service to transfer R4,000 to Elsie. She followed the instructions of the cashier, and when she was asked to slot in her secret PIN, she did so. She alleges that the cashier had told her that something was wrong with the system, but then it had gone through, and she had received her transaction number. She sent the number, along with the PIN, to her daughter.

Mamburu then needed to pay R2,500 to her other daughter, who lives in Tembisa in Gauteng. This time she was told that she could not use her own ID number as it had been used already. “She [the cashier] told me to use another person’s ID number,” Mamburu states in her court documents. She refused but was then asked to phone her daughter in Sibasa and get her to forward a copy of her ID. The money was subsequently transferred successfully to her daughter, and Mamburu returned to Madombidzha.

Later that day, Elsie phoned to tell her mother that she had gone to Shoprite in Thohoyandou to collect the money but had been told it had already been withdrawn in Brits, in North West. The next morning, Mamburu went back to the store where she made the deposit to try and find out what had happened to the R4,000. She was also informed that the money had been withdrawn in Brits.

“The store manager advised me to open a case with the Makhado police, so that they could give me back my money,” said Mamburu. She opened a case at the Makhado Police Station on 5 October. On closer scrutiny, Mamburu also realised that the deposit slip issued to her indicated that a certain Lenganani Sinthumule had deposited the money. “I don’t understand how this mistake came about, and no one is willing to answer at the shop,” Mamburu said.

According to Mamburu, she followed up daily with the store to hear if any progress had been made with the case. For her, the R4,000 is a lot of money to lose as she has a very meagre income. “I could also not let my child drop out of college, so I borrowed money that I must now repay with interest,” said Mamburu.

After waiting in vain for the police and getting no joy from the local store manager, she phoned Checkers’ district manager on 16 October. “He informed me that the money was withdrawn on 10 October in Tzaneen. This really left me confused,” said Mamburu.

Someone then suggested that she approach the local Legal Aid offices for assistance. After interviewing Mamburu and listening to what she had to say, they assisted her in filing a case at the Small Claims Court in Louis Trichardt. A letter of demand was delivered by hand to the store on 18 October, asking Checkers to pay back the R4,000. After the 14-day response period had expired, with no reply received from Checkers, Mamburu applied for a summons on 8 November. The summons was delivered to the local store. The case is set to be heard on 30 November.

Shoprite/Checkers’ media liaison department was asked to comment on Ms Mamburu’s case and did so last week. The reply from “The Media Team” states that millions of these money-transfer transactions are successfully completed every year. “It is a way to securely send and receive money without the need for a bank account,” the statement reads.

Shoprite/Checkers explains that the money sender personally selects and keys in a secret PIN, known only to him/herself, on the pin pad when transferring the money, and the customer will also receive a Money Transfer (M) number.

“It is important for the sender to share the M-number and unique PIN chosen by him/her only with the intended recipient and in a secure way to prevent an unauthorised person from getting hold of that information with which he/she can receive the money at any of our branches. The PIN selected by the sender is encrypted, not printed on the till slip, is not visible to our employees, or stored on the transfer interface system, and no one can withdraw the money without the unique PIN associated with a particular M-number. This is just one of numerous measures in place to ensure money transfers are safe,” says The Media Team in the statement.

Shoprite/Checkers also urges any customer who may become a victim of fraud to report this to the police, so that it can be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. “We will always give our full cooperation and provide all available information to the SAPS to assist with their investigation into alleged fraud incidents,” says The Media Team.

Shoprite/Checkers was asked whether any internal investigation had been conducted pursuant to Ms. Mamburu’s claims. They did not respond to the question. The media liaison department also did not want to say whether this was an isolated incident or whether more customers have complained of losing money when using this specific branch to send money. “We cannot comment on the details of this matter as it is before the small claims court,” Shoprite/Checkers responded.

The head of Legal Aid SA’s Makhado office, Mr Elton Makhadi, was optimistic that Ms Mamburu will be successful with her claim. “Yes, she does stand a fair chance. What is important is the facts of the case, and the Commissioner of the Small Claims Court will apply the legal position to the facts.”

Makhadi explained that even though Legal Aid SA was assisting Ms Mamburu in this case, convincing the court would be up to her. “Representation by an attorney or advocate is not allowed in the Small Claims Court. You may, however, obtain prior advice from Legal Aid SA or a private attorney at your own cost. A company can be represented by its manager or any of its assigned employees,” he said.

One of Ms Mamburu’s frustrations is that she has had no joy in trying to get Shoprite/Checkers to address her problem. She also could not turn to an ombudsman or mediator. Makhadi explained why they had advised her to follow this specific route.

“The Small Claims Court is a specialised tribunal created by statute, with specific duties and powers. It is designed to provide a judicial determination of disputes involving small amounts of money. Its procedure is significant for its inexpensiveness, speed and simplicity. There is a banking ombudsman that investigates complaints usually lodged by private citizens against businesses and/or financial institutions. However, its powers are limited to resolving the conflicts or concerns raised, either by mediation or by making recommendations,” he said.

 

 
 
 

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