By Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Karabo Ngoepe
The man accused of looting R50 million from VBS Mutual Bank has vehemently denied claims that he raided the institution, saying he and the other accused are victims of a witch-hunt aimed at destroying political opponents.
In an interview with Sunday Independent this week, former Vele Investment chief executive Robert Madzonga said an unnamed person was paid R200 000 to implicate him in the VBS scandal as part of a well- orchestrated media-driven campaign to collapse the bank and neutralise political rivals.
Without mentioning EFF president Julius Malema and deputy Floyd Shivambu by name, Madzonga said it was interesting that “only two politicians from one political party” have been made the “faces” of the VBS investigation even though “more than a dozen politicians” from three different political parties have been implicated in R2 billion scandal.
“I haven’t worked for VBS but I was the CEO of Vele Investments. I never got any salary from VBS but from Vele, but my name is linked amongst those who allegedly looted VBS.
“There is a huge political interference in the VBS investigation and I know someone who was bought for R200000 to implicate me and others for nefarious reasons. There are politics at play in this whole investigation. Some politicians want to bring their opponents down using the VBS investigation,” Madzonga said.
He said some politicians, whom he promised to name at the right time, were using some media houses to drive the desired political campaign because the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) investigation did not produce expected results.
“The media is being used to drive the NPA to arrest certain people because some journalists were given the names of certain politicians that must be targeted while the law enforcement agencies have their eyes on the prime suspects implicated in the matter. We are all victims of a political smear campaign,” he added.
At his round-table discussion with five journalists at the EFF headquarters in Johannesburg this week, Malema also called the VBS investigation “a political smear campaign” to discredit him, Shivambu and the third biggest political party in the country.
Malema said he would resign from public office if any municipality could prove he influenced them to invest money in VBS bank.
“If there is any municipality that can say, ‘we put money into VBS because Malema said we must do that’, I will resign all positions without any hesitation,” he said.
“There is an agenda all the time to discredit us.” National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema yesterday declined to comment on Madzonga’s allegations. He referred the Sunday Independent to the Hawks ombudsman.
Advocate Tshepo Boikanyo from the Hawks ombudsman, yesterday said anyone who believes there has been political meddling or interference in the VBS investigation is free to lodge an official complaint.
“Our office is independent from the Hawks and headed by retired Judge Frans Kgomo. We have our own investigators. If there are issues picked during the course of our investigation outside our mandate, we refer them to relevant authorities,” Boikanyo said.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the claims were baseless. “If he has such information, why has he not brought it forward to law enforcement agencies? As a leader, he has a responsibility to do the right thing and report acts of criminality.”
Last week, Mulaudzi denied claims of political interference in the VBS investigation, saying anyone with information to the contrary was free to come forward or lodge a complaint with the public protector and other relevant bodies.
Ngwema said at the time that the investigation would follow every piece of credible evidence of any criminal activity. He added that more people might be arrested as and when they are implicated.
Nine people have been arrested in relation to the “heist”. The latest is former Merafong Municipality acting chief financial officer Matthys Wienekus who appeared in court this week. Wienekus was arrested in connection with the investment of R50m of municipal funds in violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
He joined suspects including former VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Matodzi, who has been dubbed the kingpin, VBS chief executive Andile Ramavhunga, former treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane, two former board members Paul Magula and Ernest Nesane, bank audit committee member Phalaphala Ramikosi, and former KPMG engagement partner Sipho Malaba.
The eighth suspect, chief financial officer Philip Truter, couldn’t make it to court because he is under quarantine after contracting Covid-19.
The men appeared before the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court in Katlehong two weeks ago. They were released on bail of R100000 each after being charged with 47 counts of fraud, corruption, theft, racketeering and money laundering. They maintain their innocence. The case was postponed to October 8.
In February 2019, Madzonga’s estranged wife Khosi accused him of stashing R50m from the liquidated bank in his lawyer’s account. “He hid R50 million with one of his colleagues in his lawyer’s account. He recently bought a beach house in Ballito, Durban,” said Khosi. “He created a new trust before sequestration took place and hid properties there.”
He said VBS liquidators and forensic investigators went through his bank account and didn’t see any R50m that came his way from the bank or any of its subsidiaries. He admitted he had been collecting luxury cars for more than 20 years.
Madzonga, who has been sequestrated for his alleged role in the scandal, added that five of his cars were attached as part of the investigation conducted by advocate Terry Motau.
“I am not a thief or a looter no matter how many malicious articles would be written about me and I am not afraid of going to jail. I will never be arrested in the scandal because I didn’t steal anything.”
He said the bank was liquidated due to political interference. “VBS was liquidated with hope of nailing certain politicians and not because it was being looted.
If the reasons were sincere, why didn’t they save the bank and deal with the alleged looters criminally?”
He added that he “honestly tried to save the bank because of the pride behind it. I invested R3 million from my own pocket and lobbied another friend to invest R15 million to save VBS from collapsing because we believed in it, but today I am accused as one of the alleged looters.” Sunday Independent