Instead of getting the funding he had hoped to secure for Setsoto municipality where he worked as a project manager‚ Sello Tsolo apparently unknowingly signed an acknowledgment of debt‚ which landed him in jail.
The document he signed was‚ according to his wife Mapitso‚ written in Arabic.
Although he has since been released from jail‚ Tsolo and two other South Africans who are in the same predicament cannot come back to their home country. They are under a travel ban because their debts remain unpaid.
The South African government says it is aware of the men’s plight and is doing its best to get them back to the country.
Mapitso of Welkom said her husband left South Africa in June 2013 on an invite from a man who purported to be an investor and had seemed interested in funding his dairy project.
“My husband was working for Setsoto Municipality as a Project Manager at the time. His mandate at the time was to get funding for the municipality’s dairy project.
“He heard there was somebody‚ an Indian national‚ who comes from Dubai and was looking for projects to fund.”
Tsolo said her husband met the “investor” in 2012 in Sandton at a presentation.
“He [the investor] was interested in the dairy project. He said that he would invite my husband to Dubai. In 2013‚ he invited him. He got him an air ticket and secured accommodation for him.”
Sello then left for Dubai in June and met with the man‚ who took him to his office to sign documents to finalise the funding.
“The nightmare started when my husband signed those papers because they were written in Arabic.
“He thought he was signing for the funding yet he was signing for acknowledgment of debt of R1.5 million.”
Sello was subsequently arrested and spent three years in jail. He was released in March last year.
“It’s been very hard for me and children because their father cannot provide for us anymore. Setsoto municipality terminated his service in August 2013. The bond can’t be paid. I had to go through debt review to make ends meet.”
Mapitso alleged the “investor” had continued to extort money from her and she has also had to pay for her husband’s lawyers in Dubai who were trying to get him back to South Africa.
“I’ve been to the Free State government‚ to the Department of International Relations‚ but I did not get any substantial response.”
International Relations department spokesperson‚ Clayson Monyela said: “The predicament of the three South Africans was communicated to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFA)‚ with an urgent request to personally meet with the relevant authorities in order to get their passports released so that they can return to South Africa.
“It is hoped that this meeting can take place sooner than later‚ but a date has not yet been communicated to the Embassy. The Embassy continues to render consular assistance as it normally does in similar cases.”
Monyela said the men will have to wait until the UAE gives them permission to leave the country.
“The SA Embassy in Abu Dhabi is trying their utmost to facilitate and expedite a decision by the local authorities‚” Monyela said.
– TMG Digital