Text messages show brazen VBS bribes

Two officials in the Limpopo municipalities that deposited millions of rands of public funds in the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank asked for expensive gifts and a share in the loot grabbed during the bank heist.

This is alleged in court documents answering former ANC Limpopo treasurer Danny Msiza’s application to review the Reserve Bank report on VBS by Terry Motau, SC.

Although the report is in the public domain, the addenda to it were not previously made public because they contain personal information. Msiza’s application to review the report has now exposed that information.

This week the ANC fired seven mayors from the municipalities that deposited money in VBS.

Motau alleged that Msiza, who resigned this week, is a director, together with his wife, in a company that was paid R1.5‑million under questionable circumstances, and a R9.5-million bond granted to Msiza’s company was serviced in part by Kabelo Matsepe’s company.

Matsepe is one of the people listed in the Motau report as having received “gratuitous” payments from VBS.

Motau attached WhatsApp messages between Matsepe and Msiza, in which they discuss municipalities’ investments and payments.

Matsepe denied any wrongdoing or that he received payments in corrupt transactions. He said the money he received was paid to him as commissions for facilitating deposits to VBS.

The answering papers from Motau also reveal details of how suspended Collins Chabane municipality municipal manager Charlotte Ngobeni and former Makhado municipality chief financial officer Mikateko Makhubela were requesting favours from Matsepe, who is linked to the VBS bank heist.

Ngobeni, who has denied wrongdoing, had approved R120‑million for her municipality to deposit in VBS, and Makhubela signed off on a R140‑million investment with the bank.

Motau revealed WhatsApp messages between Ngobeni and Matsepe to show a long-running relationship between Msiza, Matsepe and the two officials.

In one of the messages, sent in January, Ngobeni asked Matsepe to bring her a gift from his trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum. “During January Ngobeni demanded that Matsepe bring her ‘a very expensive handbag’ from Davos. Instead Matsepe purchased a Tag Heuer watch for her,” said Motau.

The court documents reveal that Ngobeni’s name was among those passed on to Matsepe by Msiza so that Matsepe would make payments to them.

Ngobeni told the Mail & Guardian that she had not received any gifts from Matsepe. “Those messages were innocent. They have nothing to do with VBS because Kabelo Matsepe was not even part of us investing in VBS. I know him on a personal level, not on a professional level. He never did any business with us. That was a friendly gesture; he did not bring back anything. It is just like when you ask someone to bring you sand from Durban, they don’t bring it, do they?”

She said she was introduced to Matsepe between December 2017 and January 2018 as a person who could assist the municipality to recover its money from VBS, after treasury had instructed municipalities not to invest with the mutual bank.

“When I was introduced to him it was during that time when the money was supposed to come back and we were still struggling to get the money back … We thought Kabelo would assist us in getting the money because that person that assisted us in investing the money was not picking up our phones anymore,” said Ngobeni.

Motau also quoted WhatsApp messages between Makhubela and Matsepe, in which the former

complained that she was being given a smaller share of R100 00 from VBS.

“So I get 33k out of all my efforts … pls u Giyani u must make it up to me,” reads the message. Matsepe responded: “cause it’s a smaller pie and will get something when the period is 6 month, D said deputy Mayor must not get anything from this thing” and “he said he told her”.

Makhubela responded by saying: “No problem. So i must reinvest ne in end of march till June. Will it help to recover?” According to Motau, “D” referred to Msiza.

Makhubela, who now works at the Greater Tzaneen municipality as chief financial officer, said she was sick and could not comment. “I am not well, I just had an operation and my mind is not working well,” she said.

A number of individuals implicated in the Reserve Bank report on VBS have claimed that they would challenge it in court, but are yet to do so. These include the bank’s former executives and also Brian Shivambu, the brother of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ deputy president, Floyd.

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Thanduxolo Jika
Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika is an investigative Journalist and Co-Author of We are going to kill each other today:The Marikana Story. The Messiah of Abantu.

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