Fake inspector who faked his death locked up in a real jail

Police detective Sergeant Philemon Mmatli

Everson Luhanga

A former cop who was thought to have died in 2017 came back from the grave to pose as an inspector to extort money from restaurant owners.

The trial of Prebly Linda Nyamakazi came to an end last week when he was sentenced to a total of 11 years behind bars for extortion, kidnapping, theft, impersonating a labour inspector, and attempted extortion.

Here is the story of how an ex-cop returned from the grave to become an elusive con-artist.

Records at the Department of Home Affairs say that Nyamakazi died in 2017 and he was buried as a pauper by a mortuary in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

But the “dead former policeman” has since committed a series of crimes in different parts of the country, especially in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, where had been posing as an inspector for the Department of Labour. 

Nyamakazi was arrested several times following his departure from the police force in 2006, including being handed a 10-year prison sentence in 2011 for extortion and theft among other crimes.

He was also arrested in 2019, but at this time police didn’t know Nyamakazi’s identity and still had every reason to believe he was lying in a Hillbrow mortuary.

But when he was arrested again in 2020 for posing as a restaurant inspector, an investigation carried out by the Gauteng Provincial Organised Crime unit uncovered his true identity.

Detective Sergeant Philemon Mmatli from the Gauteng provincial police headquarters worked on the investigation. He said the ex-cop’s modus operandi has been the same in several cases. 

“He would go to restaurant owners, ask for a list of employees and when he finds that some of the people employed were not South Africans, he would demand their employment permits that proved that they were legally employed.

“He would then threaten to have the shop owners arrested if they didn’t pay a spot fine ranging between R50,000 to R80,000,” said Detective Mmatli.

He said the suspect usually threatened his victims on Fridays. And fearing that they would be locked up for the entire weekend, the victims would often pay him off.

“We picked up that he had several cases reported at different police stations. Many videos of footage from different shops revealed that it was the same man,” said Detective Mmatli.

Detective Mmatli said Nyamakazi’s identity was never found out because he used to change his name whenever he appeared in court. He didn’t have an ID because he faked his death.

Nyamakazi is scheduled to return to Randburg Magistrate’s Court on 31 January to stand trial for other crimes he has been accused of.