Opinion

VBS saga represents a severe lack of moral compass in SA politics

Simbarashe Nyatsanza

Initially known as the Venda Building Society, VBS Mutual Bank is a self described ‘bona fide BBBEE organization’ that was established in 1982 as one of the earliest and possibly proudest national affimitive action initiatives.

With its corporate headquarters in Rivonia, Johannesburg, and a myriad of branches in Limpopo, the first fully black owned corporate and retail finance services provider – registered and regulated with the South African Reserve Bank and governed by the Mutual Act of 1993 – is currently embroidered in what has nationally became known as the VBS Saga, after a series of damning revelations premised on its alleged corrupt conduct were made known to the public in the past two weeks.

The ‘Issue’

In March 2018, against a backdrop of a major liquidity crisis,the bank was placed under curator-ship. It was discovered that during the period between March 2015 and June 2018, significant financial losses were incurred by the bank leading to the beginning of a forensic investigation.

It was alleged that top executives from the bank and other associated parties including politicians from the ANC and the EFF, and officials from Vele Investments, made fradulant transactions – some in the form of creating fake deposits which mentioned parties and bank executives then withdrew for personal and private spending – in order to inflate the bank’s accounting records.

The investigation was led by Advocate Terry Motau and these revelations were contained in the subsequent forensic report later compiled titled The Great Bank Heist.

The report cites the difficulty of precisely ascertaining the amount of money lost since the curator still needs to complete the full restatement of VBS’ financial position. However an estimated amount of R 2 Billion was arrived at through the confessions of (some of the implicated) people interviewed during the investigation.

What this means

The media has of late been having a field day interrogating the involvement of local politicians in this immoral and corrupt mess. In particular, the alleged involvement of EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu has been a cause for much speculation and scrutiny of the EFF itself. Floyd’s brother, Brian Shivambu was named as one of the recipients in the illicit money flow stemming from the bank and running across a network of politically connected individuals.

ANC treasure Zweli Mkhize is also alleged to be a part of that network that has seen monies from local municipalities being looted into the cookie jars of political parties through dodgy VBS backdoor deals. Last week current ANC Treasurer General Paul Mashatule admitted that the party did indeed receive money from the bank. Scandalous!

This episode is highlighting a severe lack of moral conscience in the upper echelons of black South African politics . The mafia-like operation of these individuals is utterly destroying the livelihoods of most of VBS’ innocent depositors – many of which include stokvels and burial societies from the least privileged of backgrounds.

These are the people apparently financing the flagrant lifestyles of already rich and well off dishonest and poor excuses of political leaders. It is rather disappointed to realize, especially through individuals from the EFF, that politicians cannot be trusted and that the black man, the black poor man, is on his own. Not even the economic freedom fighter is fighting for the poor man’s cause.

It is becoming clearer with each day just how corruption and general deceit is the order of the day in Ramaphosa’s free South Africa. Lies, backhand deals and pure dishonest are the way through which the country is run and it is becoming socially acceptable for everybody to have a ‘smalla nyana skeleton’ in their closet. Even if it means completely disregarding the concerns of the poor. Even if it means taking from those with less to give in order to give those with more to take. Even if it means that this has to be done openly with little to no fear of consequence because consequence itself has been reduced to who can argue the loudest. Even if it means openly breaking the law.

This is a shame on South African politics and its society at large. There are reports that President Ramaphosa himself knew beforehand of the looting at VBS and kept mum, did nothing, but he has since denied this. This is a shame on him too and his false cleaner-than-thou facade. The people did not ‘send him’ to be a silent witness to their tribulation.

This too is a shame to the media which is appearing to be complacent in these atrocities. After the shushed Steinhoff Episode, the media was thought to be more than able to recognize the roots of these billion-rands-scale seemingly government supportered robbery of the masses . Instead it has chosen to wait until the deed is done so that it can ricochet back and forth within its fraternity feel-goodist views that reek of a fake moral empathy and solidarity with the poor and yet at the very bottom of it all it does not truly share these sensitivities. The media simply does not care.

It almost appears as if every sector of this ANC led society needs to be taken down and then reassembled. So that episodes such as these -in which the poor and innocuous children of this country, who are the backbone of this country – are not the continuous marks in the dangerous kayfabe that sees the rich building their mansions and driving their Ferrari’s on the backs of the poor and the voiceless. So that corruption can be a thing that we not only despise and hate with utter impunity, but condemn loudly, not gravitate towards like bees towards the heart of a ripe flower. So that we can learn to be ashamed of those so called ‘smalla nyana skeletons’. So that we can all have a fair chance to opportunity and a respectable life in this oh so beautiful and oh so rich land that can sustain us all till time eternal.

**NB This opinion article initially posted that EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu was named as one of the recipients of illegal financial flows from VBS Mutual, this is not true and accordingly we have updated it to show that it was Floyd’s brother, Brian Shivambu who was named as one of the recipients of the illegal money.

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