‘Identity theft is ruining my life’


Mbongiseni Sithole of Dlamini, Soweto, whose identity was stolen in 1993, depriving him of voting in the first democratic elections. Picture: Itumeleng English

Johannesburg – “My life has been standing still.”

These were the desperate words of Mbongiseni Sydney Sithole – the real Mbongiseni Sithole.

His identity was stolen over 20 years ago and since then his life has been turned upside down.

“It started in 1994 when I went for national voting,” the 55-year-old man told The Star.

“I was told I was registered in Polokwane and I (thought) maybe it was a mistake.”

Sithole brushed off the incident, until a few years later when he found out on two separate occasions that there were bank accounts in his name.

The first time was when he was the chairman of a school governing body.

“I had to sign the cheques. I went to FNB and I was told I had an account. I said, No, I’ve never had an account at FNB’.”

It happened again when he and four friends tried to open a bank account for a company they had established.

“I was told (by the bank) I have loans and that I was staying in Bela Bela. Then I started realising something was not right.”

But before Sithole went to the police, he thought he’d double check one last time on whether someone was indeed living as him.

His worst fears were confirmed by the SA Revenue Service (Sars), who showed him documents, seen by The Star, that weren’t his.

“Sars showed me documents that did not belong to me (and stated) that I was from Bela Bela. I took the address where the guy was working to the police station in Booysens and I told them this was the guy.”

The “fake” Sithole, a Mozambican, had taken out a loan to buy a property in Bela Bela and allegedly worked as a forklift driver at a freight company east of Joburg.

According to Sithole, he continued to push the police until eventually, at the end of last year, they arrested the “fake” Sithole.

Last month, when he approached the police again to follow-up on the progress of the case, Sithole found out that the man had been found guilty of fraud in the Johannesburg District Court in February and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of R3 000.

In his police statement, seen by The Star, the fraudster admits that he was using Sithole’s identity unlawfully.

“I’ve used a fraudulent identity book belonging to Mbongiseni Sydney Sithole. I’ve put my photo into that identity book and pretended to be Mr Mbongiseni Sydney Sithole. I fully understand that my actions are unlawful,” it said.

Sithole said the police officers investigating the case had managed to establish that the fraudster had allegedly bought the identity document from a Home Affairs official.

A statement by fingerprint expert Frederik Schoeman confirmed that the fingerprints of the fraudster, whose real name is known to The Star, did not exist on the Home Affairs national identity system (Hanis).

Sithole is frustrated that despite the court’s finding that his namesake was a fraud, he was still free and using his unlawfully obtained identity.

Out of desperation, Sithole even contacted the fraudster by phoning the company he worked for. “I spoke to Mbongiseni. I said to Mbongiseni, you are speaking to the right Mbongiseni.

“Why did you do this? Why did you steal my identity? He said ‘I’m sorry’ and dropped the phone.”

The Star’s attempts to get hold of the fraudulent Sithole were unsuccessful. Home Affairs, however, said it was not aware of Sithole’s case.

“According to information available on the National Population Register, the client’s identity number has never been identified as a duplicate case of two people sharing an identity number,” said spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete.

“There is no indication that the matter has been reported to the department or that the applicant has previously queried the matter.”

He said they were retrieving information from Hanis to establish whether the fraudulent Sithole had obtained an identity document and number through the normal application process

“We will contact the client with a view to resolving the matter,” he added.

Sithole is trying to hold his life together. “It destroyed me as I could not get a job. I’m an insurance risk-surveyor. I had so much opportunity to get a job. I would go and do in…

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