JOHANNESBURG (Reuters Life!) - A deaf South African cleaner and his family who won 91 million rand ($11.82 million) in a lottery have fled their home after hordes of relatives, friends and strangers besieged them to ask for money.
South African media reported that 52-year-old Cape Town hardware store cleaner Stanley Philander and his family disappeared from their wooden shack in the back garden of a relative’s home after their win attracted scores of people.
Philander and his wife of 12 years, Diana - who is also deaf - told a Cape Town tabloid newspaper that they had been inundated with requests for money since news got out that their ticket matched Friday night’s winning numbers and then disappeared, South Africa’s Daily Star newspaper reported.
The Star and other news outlets quoted Diana Philander’s sister, Wilma Vlok, as saying that after news of Philander’s win spread on Friday night, “family members and people that I don’t even know” came to her home in the Parkwood suburb of Cape Town.
Sometime on Sunday people, who Vlok believed were from the National Lottery, took Philander, his wife and their children, Logan and Kirsten, to an undisclosed location, the Star reported. Vlok was not at home when the Philanders left, so she was not sure where they were or when they would be back.
South African Disabilities Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya appealed for supplicants to stop approaching the Philanders for a share of the lottery winnings, which rose to 91 million rand after the lottery was rolled over several times.
“This record price will change the life of the winner forever,” the South African Press Association quoted Mayende-Sibiya as saying.
Millions of blacks in South Africa are still living in poverty after apartheid ended in 1994, with government under increasing pressure to deliver on its promises to improve housing and water provision.
A spate of violent protests has highlighted unhappiness over the lack of electricity, water and sanitation, with South African police firing rubber bullets in the latest flare-up earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the company which operates the National Lottery, Gidani, said in a statement on its website on Monday that it is not always easy to come to terms with a sudden life altering Jackpot of millions.
“We have trained professionals to help the winners to come to terms with their sudden fortune,” Thembi Tulwana said in the statement.
South Africa’s richest game, which rolled over 22 times before Friday’s win, has produced four multimillionaires within a month of its existence - a 30 million rand winner from the inaugural Draw on October 23, 2009, a 12 million rand winner on October 30, a 7 million rand winner on November 10 and a 6.9 million rand winner on November 20.
Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Paul Casciato