/ 6 May 2021

Case of municipal manager who got luxury gifts for depositing public funds in VBS will go to trial

Suspended Limpopo Municipal Manager Appears In Court Over Vbs Bank Scandal In South Africa
PALM RIDGE, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 12: Limpopo municipality suspended manager Charlotte Ngobeni appears at the Palm Ridge Magistrate Court on March 12, 2021 in Palm Ridge, South Africa. It is reported that Ngobeni was accused of playing a significant role in investing over R120 million in the VBS Mutual Bank. (Photo by OJ Koloti/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

The municipal manager in Limpopo, who allegedly received luxury holidays, wristwatches and beauty treatments for depositing R120-million of public funds in VBS Mutual Bank, is heading to trial.  

On Thursday, at the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palmridge, Tsakani Charlotte Ngobeni made her second court appearance on charges of corruption and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act

This was after, in October 2017, she deposited R120-million in the now-defunct mutual bank. The state alleges that this was in contravention of legislation and municipal policy, which barred public investments in institutions that are not registered under the Banks Act. VBS was not registered under the Banks Act. 

Ngobeni’s case was postponed to July for a pre-trial conference, when state prosecutor Hein van der Merwe said the matter would be moved to the high court in Pretoria for an expected trial. 

At her first appearance in March, Ngobeni, who has been the manager of the Collins Chabane local municipality since May 2017, indicated that she would plead not guilty when the trial began. She is out on bail of R50 000. 

According to the charge sheet, Ngobeni gained a slew of expensive gifts for her alleged crimes from the former Limpopo ANC Youth League leader, Kabelo Matsepe, who is also a VBS accused in a separate case along with 13 others. 

“Ngobeni received R51 196 for accommodation, meals, beverages, spa treatments and spa products purchased at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa in Morningside from Moshate FNB account. This account belonged to Kabelo Matsepe.

“Around 30 January 2018, Matsepe purchased a Tag Heuer ladies’ wristwatch at Arthur Kaplan Mall of Africa worth R28 500, paid for from the Matsepe FNB account,” the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleges. 

“Matsepe gave the wristwatch to Ngobeni in Polokwane on 30 January 2018. VBS failed to repay the deposit of R120-million  together with accumulated interest thereon to the municipality,” the state added. 

Matsepe and 13 other accused face a collective 188 counts of racketeering, corruption, fraud, theft, and money laundering. Their trial is to begin in October, according to Van der Merwe. 

In March, NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told the Mail & Guardian that the 14 accused’s trial was expected to run for about 16 weeks. 

All 14 accused are also out on bail. In October last year, former VBS chief financial officer Phillip Truter pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption charges and agreed to turn state witness against his former colleagues. Truter received an effective 10-years imprisonment for his guilty plea.