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Customers bay for car dealer’s blood

Limpho Sello

MORE than fifty prospective car owners are baying for the blood of a local vehicle clearing agent, Thapelo Makhahlela, after he reportedly failed to deliver their vehicles after collecting thousands of maloti from them.

Some of the clients claim that they have been waiting for their vehicles to be delivered from January this year.

Mr Makhahlela runs TMM Holdings and the firm’s offices in Maseru, Mafeteng and Leribe have since been closed down and he has reportedly been changing mobile numbers as a way of dodging the irate clients.

He now only communicates with the aggrieved clients through WhatsApp texts and audio messages.

Contacted for comment, Mr Makhahlela confirmed that his company has failed to deliver several cars and said this has been caused by the financial challenges that he has been facing. He refused to meet with this reporter and subsequently blocked her on WhatsApp.

“Due to the financial challenges, the company has failed to pay for courier services in Durban which has led to the service providers seizing the cars that had landed from Japan because of the debt,” Mr Makhahlela said.

“I have a WhatsApp group where I communicate with some of my clients on how I am dealing with the challenge. I will either pay them back or deliver their cars,” Mr Makhahlela said without giving a timeframe as to when he would do so.

He said some of the cars that he is supposed to deliver to his clients are currently held by the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) as he has not paid the necessary taxes. He however, could not be drawn into revealing the number of vehicles that have been impounded by the LRA.

LRA public relations manager Pheello Mphana refused to say whether or not they were holding onto TMM vehicles. He however, said there were currently 53 cars in their warehouse.

Mr Makhahlela said he has since gone back to his clients to ask for more funds to settle the costs for tax, transportation and clearing which he would reimburse when he regained his footing.

He said clients whose vehicles had already been sold in Durban to defray costs would also be reimbursed when his financial situation improves.

Mr Makhahlela said he had received several death threats from angry clients and decided to close his offices. He said he has maintained contact with the clients on WhatsApp where he says he updates them.

“I have been getting endless death threats from customers so we closed our offices. I then resorted to opening WhatsApp groups where I communicate with some of my clients and others outside the group.

He said he was committed to ensuring that all the clients recovered their money.

“I do not meet them face to face for security reasons. I cannot expose myself to the risk (of being attacked) which will again hinder me from getting their challenges addressed.”

Mr Makhahlela could not be drawn into explaining how he got into the messy situation but some of the clients suggested that he had spent the money on his lavish lifestyle.

The clients pointed to his lavish wedding that was reportedly held at Sun City, South Africa last year as an example of his extravagance. The customers said he had even purchased a top of the range Ford Ranger vehicle that he has been driving lately.

Mr Makhahlela however, denied being extravagant.

“I spent a whole year planning the wedding. I did not just wake up one morning and decided to get married. No one can stand here and imply that I used his or her money for my wedding and this has nothing to do with my company’s problems.”

One of the clients who spoke to the Sunday Express on condition of anonymity said she and her two friends paid for three cars worth M37 000 each in February but they are all still to receive the vehicles.

“We gave him M111 000 so it is very difficult to understand how he can have cash problems. We can’t understand why he hasn’t delivered when we paid cash up front.

“I am so frustrated and do not know what to do because I had saved the money for a long time and I do not have any more money to spend on a car,” she said.

Another customer said her car was seized by an agent who is owed by Mr Makhahlela as soon as it landed in the country. She said she was then asked to pay an extra M15 000 to get the vehicle.

For his part, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Tefo Mapesela, said prospective buyers of second hand vehicles must do their research before giving their money to anyone.

“You cannot give an agent your money to buy a car for you. That is not how it should be done. There is a transparent secure process where you can transfer money through the banks directly to Japan to purchase a vehicle.

“Most of these people are just clearing agents but they go beyond their scope of work by taking people’s money and buying cars for them,” Mr Mapesela said.

He said several agents have even attempted to apply for vehicle dealership permits but these had been declined as permits were only given to companies that have adequate space to operate from.


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