Glenda of Beacon Bay in East London could not help but feel pity when a 44-year-old man knocked at her door looking for accommodation towards the end of August. The man was accompanied by his wife and two children, aged 9 years and 18 months. He told her his family had just been evicted from their family farm in Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe’s government. She had no reason to dispute his story. Right there in front of her was a green Mercedes Benz 230 with Zimbabwean number plates. She offered him a cottage for R1 800 but waived the rent for the remainder of August.
The man Glenda had just taken in was no fugitive from Mugabe. David Israel Ben Jesse, or Allan Norton, has been living in South Africa for more than two years now but he has been on the run since March last year when The Insider exposed him for a fraud who had cleaned out at least two Cape Town lawyers who had offered him a job after he had claimed to be a lawyer. Jesse’s last known address before moving to East London had been Bloemfontein where he had conned another lawyer into employing him as a labour expert. The lawyer had even fired own trusted employee at Jesse’s instigation before being alerted that he had employed a fraud.
But Jesse, who has a penchant for backbiting people that help him, and seems to prey on old ladies, could not hide his true character for long. By September 9, he was already giving his landlady problems and was threatening to sue her for breach of contract. Jesse is highly litigious. At one time he had 60 lawsuits pending with the High Court in Zimbabwe. One woman who sought a peace order to stop him from harassing her after she had terminated their short relationship was slapped with six counter-lawsuits.
Jesse studied law with the University of South Africa but did not complete the degree. He, however, ran a law firm in Bulawayo, called the Law Foundation, using a qualified lawyer, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, as a front. Jesse told authorities he was a clerk but claimed to be a lawyer to his clients. He even told the school which his “son” attended that he was a partner in the law firm.
Several clients were after him when he disappeared from Zimbabwe. The Law Society of Zimbabwe had also filed a case against him at the High Court but the court papers seem to have disappeared from the records office. Jesse has caused so much havoc and spread so much fear among court officials in Zimbabwe that most are scared to give away information about his cases though these are public records.
East London lawyer, Tony Morris-Davies, who practised in Zimbabwe before moving to South Africa and represented two clients in Zimbabwe against Jesse, said during his short-stay in East London, Jesse had already conned someone into advancing him R18000 so that they could go into business. He says it was pressure from this man and his exposure that made Jesse flee East London in mid-September. He had paid full rent for that month.
It is not clear where he went but there is speculation that he could have moved to Butterworth. Jesse is believed to have carried out similar scams in Balito Bay where he once stayed. During his short stay in East London, he had also managed to get a job as a law lecturer at Damelin College.
Jesse’s highly litigious nature could also have landed him into trouble, as word about him quickly spread among the legal fraternity in East London and police were alerted about his presence in the city. South African police including the scorpions are allegedly looking for him but there are allegations that Jesse could be working in cahoots with some of them because they have not been able to arrest him although at one time he is reported to have pitched up at a police station.
The Insider understands that Jesse was supposed to have picked up by police on September 15 or 22 but nothing was heard after that.
Morris-Davies, the only person so far to agree to be quoted in the Jesse saga, said Jesse was now under so much pressure that he might change his name. Up to now he has been using either his adopted name, Jesse, or his original name, Norton. He has used a letter from former Zimbabwean chief Justice Anthony Gubbay as reference that he is a lawyer and has often been backed by an Arthur Kruger who is supposedly a Johannesburg lawyer.
He calls himself a doctor claiming to have a PhD from an American University which clearly states that its degrees are not recognized academic qualifications but are merely for prestige. And he plays big most of the time, but appeared to be destitute to Glenda according to a letter he wrote threatening to sue her for breach of contract.
“9th September 2003.
“RE: LEASE YOURSELF & DR JESSE
“The writer records that you have an oral lease agreement with Dr Jesse for the period of 6 months. We were ad idem on the essentalia and reached consensus. You waived rental for the last week of August 2003. The rental agreed was R1800.O0 per month payable on the last day of each month in arrears, this included lights and water. Rental is up to date.
“You further agreed to waive the deposit and instead offered to do the family washing each day for the sum of R300.O0 a month. You were warned that being a poor family without much clothing and starting again, and because we had an 18 month old baby, the washing was required 7 days a week. You said as long as you didn’t have to iron it was fine. We agreed, or were ad ldem, and concensus was reached a contract was formed.
“We undertook to take the dog in the car each day, yet you insisted that we leave the dog behind. At your specific instance and request we complied with your demand.
“We leave at 7 a.m. each day and return after work each day. We are a family of four, behind husband and wife a 9 year old daughter and an 19 month old baby. The children are noisy, the family under huge pressure to rehabilitate their lives after losing everything to Mugabe in Zimbabwe. You were expressly aware of the above stated and all material disclosures were made to you. You accepted the situation.”
[Jesse did not own any farm though he rented one in Concession in the early 1990s. His adopted parents, the Norton family, however, owned a farm which was listed by the government for acquisition. His parents disowned him several years ago and at one time he threatened to sue them.]
“This family is entitled to free and undisturbed possession of the property. We elect to uphold the contract in toto. If you seek to breach the same we will enforce it in a court of law and seek all damages occasioned by your breach. Particularly in regard the washing where we will have it done commercially and deduct the sum of R9.OO a kg plus detergent and fabric softener from the monthly rental,” Jesse continued in his letter.
“You are respectfully requested to mind your own business in regard the goings on of his family- It is none of your affair, your comments are derogatory and defamatory. If you do not comply a court order will be sought to compel you comply.
“If you attempt to lock the writer out of the premises or stop him entering his residence the writer will file a complaint of frayd and bring an urgent spoliation application.
“Given your unbecoming behaviour of even instant, the writer declines to have any further conversation with you in regard this matter and henceforth you may contact his attorney at Bates, Chubb and Dickson, Mrs Magnus, Suite 3 Norvia House, 34 Western Avenue, Vincent, East London. 043 701 4500.
“In the interim the writer’s rights are strictly reserved in toto.
Though he has disappeared for now, Jesse will continue to cause havoc among innocent South Africans. For as long as he continues to dodge the police, he will continue to believe that he can get away with anything. So far he has. He got away with charges of extortion, assault and kidnapping in the United States. He got away on a case of murder, another of kidnapping and wife abuse, several cases of assault, and fraud in Zimbabwe. He has cleaned out three South African lawyers. He exploited six British women he had lured to Zimbabwe after claiming to be a millionaire bachelor.
But the people he cons are not his only victims. His wife Sharon and her nine-year-old daughter are probably the worst victims. He has a record of abusing wives spanning over a decade and neighbours have informed The Insider that Jesse was abusing Sharon even when she was pregnant with the now 18-month old. Besides, the nine-year-old is missing out on her education because Jesse is always on the run.