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‘Not guilty’ says R35m VBS ‘looter’

Kabelo Matsepe, the former ANC Limpopo youth leader, who supposedly received a cool R35-million from VBS Mutual Bank’s alleged looting, will plead not guilty to corruption charges he faces. This was revealed on Thursday by Matsepe’s legal representative, Ulrich Kruger, who confirmed that his client was one of eight people nabbed by the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (or Hawks) in Gauteng and Limpopo. 

The eight arrests are five more than what was revealed in court in January by prosecutor Hein van der Merwe, who had said the state would only be prosecuting three more accused. 

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This will bring to 15 the number of people expected to stand trial on 188 charges of theft, fraud, corruption, money laundering and a pattern of racketeering activity.

Kruger told the Mail & Guardian that Matsepe would also be applying for bail when he is expected to make his first appearance at the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court on Friday. 

“I don’t know what bail amount we will be asking for. I still need to take instructions,” Kruger said. 

Asked whether Matsepe will reveal in his bail application affidavit on Friday how he intends to plead, Kruger asserted: “He will be pleading not guilty.” 

The M&G reported on Wednesday that the ANC’s treasurer in Limpopo, Danny Msiza, would also be joined to the case for his alleged role in persuading at least ten municipalities to invest their monies with the now-defunct mutual bank. 

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This was according to advocate Terry Motau’s forensic report, titled The Great Bank Heist, which revealed that Msiza allegedly headed a scam that saw 53 people plunder nearly R1.9-billion from VBS. 

According to the report, Matsepe became embroiled in the VBS saga in about 2016, when he was approached by the bank’s chief executive, Tshifhiwa Matodzi, to do consultancy work. Matsepe allegedly earned about R35-million for his efforts and spent some of it on a Range Rover and a Centurion home. Matodzi was arrested in June last year. 

Matsepe’s lawyer Kruger said his client would hand himself over to the police before the case resumes in court on Friday.

The other accused are Andile Ramavhunga, the former chief executive; Phophi Mukhodobwane, the former treasurer; Sipho Malaba, who was a KPMG auditor; Lieutenant General Avhashoni Ramikosi, who was a non-executive director; as well as Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula, both of whom were representing the Public Investment Corporation as non-executive directors on the board.

In a statement on Thursday, Hawks spokesperson Captain Katlego Mogale, without naming the accused or Msiza, confirmed that one of the arrests included “an office-bearer of a political party in Limpopo”. Efforts to get comment from Msiza failed by the time of publication.

Robert Madzonga, the high-living former chief operating officer at VBS, is also expected to appear on Friday after Mogale said in the statement that a former Vele Investments chief executive was also arrested. Vele Investments was the majority shareholder in VBS and Madzonga was its chief executive.

Madzonga gained infamy three years ago when he and his wife, Khosi, shared images of their opulent lifestyle on social media platforms. 

Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya was enthused about the arrests, saying that the unit would work hard to ensure that more people responsible for alleged VBS looting were brought to book. 

“Now that the attendance of a suspected organised criminal group is secured in court, attention needs to be given to those who contributed to the looting from various municipalities as well as undue beneficiaries,” Lebeya said. 

Sipho Ngwema, the spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), also confirmed that the agency would be dealing with more arrests but would not be drawn into revealing names. 

In October, accused number three, Phillip Truter, VBS’s former chief financial officer, was sentenced to an effective seven years imprisonment after pleading guilty to, among other charges, receiving millions of rands from the alleged bank heist and falsifying financial statements. Truter agreed to turn state witness.  

The actual trial may only begin in 2022. Sources have previously told the M&G that the trial would run for about 16 weeks next year. 

“We had expected the trial to only run for eight weeks, but it seems the NPA will push for a 16-week long trial. The trial is only likely to start in early 2022 because the state wants to add more charges and defendants to the matter,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.  

Ngwema, however, told the M&G that the state expected to start the trial in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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