Questions over SA diplomat's death, after alleged fraud surrounding estate

The family of a South African diplomat who collapsed and died "suspiciously" in his Midrand home in November has laid charges of fraud and theft against his ex-wife, after she allegedly misrepresented herself as his surviving spouse. The family of the deceased, Mangaliso Bam, have also approached the high court in Pretoria for an inquest into his death, which could lead to an order for the exhumation of his remains. The family suspects foul play, and seek to have his remains examined in order to verify the cause of death. According to family lawyers, Ngcingwana Incorporated, the application for the...
The family of a South African diplomat who collapsed and died "suspiciously" in his Midrand home in November has laid charges of fraud and theft against his ex-wife, after she allegedly misrepresented herself as his surviving spouse.

The family of the deceased, Mangaliso Bam, have also approached the high court in Pretoria for an inquest into his death, which could lead to an order for the exhumation of his remains. The family suspects foul play, and seek to have his remains examined in order to verify the cause of death.

According to family lawyers, Ngcingwana Incorporated, the application for the inquest is expected to be placed on the roll within the next two weeks, with police confirming a criminal case of fraud and theft has been opened in connection with the matter.

At the centre of the saga is how the Master of the high court in Johannesburg issued Bam's ex-wife, Princess Lillian Mdlalo, with a letter of appointment as the executor of his estate in January, though their divorce was finalised in September 2017.

The letter of appointment was withdrawn after the late diplomat's mother, Jillian Nomacuba Bam, lodged a complaint, with a letter from the assistant Master of the high court in Johannesburg to Mdlalo and her lawyers in March, with a warning that any attempt to use the letter would be unlawful.

The family lawyers then immediately dispatched letters to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), where Bam had worked for over 20 years, and to the Government Employees Pension Funds (GEPF) to stop Bam's pension and benefits pay-out.

The Citizen has seen the letter from the family lawyers, dated 10 June 2020, which alerts the entities of the cancellation of the letter of appointment as an executor of Bam's estate issued to Mdlalo.

"It is our instructions to advise that… (Mdlao) has no legal right to claim or receive a pension payout from the deceased estate of late Mangaliso Bam, as (Mdlalo) has been divorced from the deceased, four years ago," the letter reads.

In the same letter, both entities are also informed of the family's intention to pursue an inquest into circumstances around Bam's death and the criminal case of fraud and theft.

"…Bam died under suspicious circumstance where the foul play of poisoning is suspected… and the family has given us instructions to apply for a court inquest… there is a criminal case of fraud and theft that has been opened against (Mdlalo) regarding her false declaration to be the legitimate wife of the deceased, claiming death benefits of the deceased, and other falsifications of information that led to the issuing of the letters of appointment which she had used to claim benefits of the deceased," the letter, from Ngcingwana Incorporated, states.

Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu, Spokesperson for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) – or the Hawks – confirmed that the unit received the fraud and theft case docket in April for further investigation.

She said they were currently awaiting "reports from respective departments where the alleged perpetrator (Mdlalo) allegedly claimed the deceased estate in order to finalise our investigation on this matter. Once the investigation is finalised, the docket will be transferred to NPA for decision"

According to the deceased's sister, Nelisiwe, her brother married Mdlalo in September 2015 but the marriage was on the rocks within months and his brother started with divorce proceedings in 2016. The divorce was finalised in September the following year.

"He was also worried that the matter in court would affect his work and status as a diplomat," she says.

She says her brother joined Dirco in 1997 and the following year he was posted in Argentina where he spent 15 years before returning to SA for two years.

"He was tasked to go to Botswana for a short period. After the Botswana posting he was sent to Finland for a period of 5 years. He served in all missions under the Sub-Directorate Transfers," Nelisiwe said.

Mdlalo did not respond to a list of detailed questions, with The Citizen instead receiving a call from a person who claimed to be an attorney, and accused its reporter of unethical conduct while refusing to provide their name or the name of their law firm.

When Mdlalo was informed that this would be used as her official comment on the story, a letter from a law firm acting on her behalf was received, warning of legal action if the allegations were published.

Her lawyer, Simthembile Mashiyi, said the questions for Mdlao were "mind blogging" (sic) and that she was a private citizen who held no public office and that her life was private.

"…the story is not only in breach of our client constitutional rights and it is in breach of your journalism ethics," (sic) the letter charged.

Mashiyi warned that they reserved their rights to pursue a defamation claim against The Citizen and this reporter "should the story go ahead".

siphom@citizen.co.za

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