Makandiwa ‘Miracle money’ backfires

By Fungai Lupande

A 38-year-old man bought airtime worth more than $1 000 since 2013 after Standard Chartered Bank erroneously linked his mobile number to a client’s account.

Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa at the launch of his brand
Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa at the launch of his brand

James Saunyama, who believed the funds to be “miracle money”, pleaded guilty to theft charges when he appeared before Harare magistrate, Mr Arnold Maburo.

He was sentenced to six months in prison. However, Mr Maburo suspended three months for five years on condition of good behaviour.

The remaining three months were suspended on condition that he restitutes $1 075, 82 on or before November 21 this year.

In mitigation, Saunyama said he was attending a church service at United Family International Church led by Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa in 2013 when they asked for his phone number.

“I gave them my number and they asked me to check my balance,” said Saunyama.

“I saw that my mobile number had an enormous amount of money and I believed it was miracle money. Since then, I used the money to top up my airtime and those of my friends and relatives.”

The complainant was Standard Chartered Bank represented by its fraud manager, Mr Kudzai Mujaji.

Prosecuting, Ms Yeukai Musengi told the court that between January and October 2013 the bank’s Msasa branch in Harare made a mobile bank registration error.

The accountant linked Saunyama’s mobile number to Ranganai Muguti’s bank account, giving him access to banking services offered on the bank’s mobile banking platform.

Muguti’s password was sent to Saunyama’s mobile phone and he changed it to his desired password fully aware that the bank account was not his.

From October 18, 2013 to May 29 this year Saunyama topped various amounts of airtime into his mobile number.

The offence came to light when Muguti visited the bank and discovered that someone else’s mobile number was linked to his account.

He then realised that money was being withdrawn in airtime purchases from his account.

The bank reported the matter to police leading to Saunyama’s arrest. The Herald