A group of villagers from Matopo in Matabeleland South was allegedly conned of large amounts of money by a company that supplied them with chicks that died within 24 hours of delivery.
Disgruntled villagers said the organisation identified itself as Falcon Investment and claimed to be sourcing the chicks from Bostwana.
Affected villagers told a meeting at Ntunjambila business centre that they paid between $50 and $140 after being enticed by the company’s representatives that visited the area at night.
“Four men and a woman representing an organisation that they identified as Falcon Investments visited our area in July one night and told us they had chicks from Botswana and wanted to facilitate a chicken project to empower us financially,” Zelitha Khumalo, one of the victims said.
“The five told us that we were supposed to pay a certain amount of money so as to be part of the project. The money varied from $50 to $140 where $140 would get you 100 chicks, $80 for 50 chicks and $50 for 25 chicks.
“After paying the required amount, the organisation promised that they were going to return the following day to build fowl runs and bring food for the chickens. A lot of villagers paid and got their chicks, but to our surprise all the chicks had died in the morning and the men never returned as they had promised.”
Another affected villager Mercy Khanye said one of the four men who identified himself as Moyo, made the villagers sign forms that were stipulating the conditions of the project.
“Among the terms was that after rearing the chickens we would sell them to the organisation who would then sell the chickens outside the country,” she said.
“The form also stipulated that after three months those who would be part of the project would be given cows and pigs depending on the number of chicks.” Methuseli Ndlovu said after the villagers had been conned, Moyo was spotted in another village where he was apprehended and taken to Matopo police station, but was released.
“We are not happy about this because how can someone target people who are already struggling to make ends meet?” Martin Ndiweni, another affected villager said.
“Why would someone sell rejected chicks to us? Do we not deserve genuine projects.” The villagers said police refused to listen to their story saying the receipts they were given were proof that the transactions were legitimate. Chief Lenati Mathe said he had received complaints from villagers, but he was not aware of such a project in his area.
“I received a complaint from the villagers, but I am shocked that there are people who came to my area and proposed a project without informing me as is the norm,” he said.
“It is unfortunate but we will work with the police to bring the culprits to book.” Police officers speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that they investigated the complaints, but said the case was complicated since villagers were given receipts.
Masakhaneni Projects Trust programmes manager Dumisani Mpofu whose organisation is pushing for the investigation of the matter said the scam would make it difficult for villagers to take part in development projects in future.