SA TIMES-Johannesburg “I maintain that I have not done anything wrong,” he said.EFF leader Julius Malema has said a friend had warned the Financial Services Board, the Public Investment Corporation and the South African Reserve Bank about the happenings at VBS Mutual Bank in 2016 but was dismissed.
“He came to me, said: ‘There is this bank, I am a shareholder, there is corruption.’ And I said: ‘Chief, do what you have to do’.”
The EFF leader opened himself up to the media once more on Thursday to address allegations of the link between the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank and his party.
A vintage Malema shuffled and juggled his way through journalists’ questions, who he said, were there to “interrogate” him for the benefit of the “court of public opinion”.
His engagement with the media followed an announcement by specialised policing unit the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that they had arrested eight people linked to the looting of the bank.
Thys Wienekus, former acting chief financial officer of the Merafong municipality, was arrested on Thursday in connection with the scandal just hours before Malema’s media engagement.
The EFF, its leader and his second in command Floyd Shivambu have been accused of benefitting from the bank in a report titled “The Great Bank Heist” by advocate Terry Motau, who looked into the theft of about R2 billion from its investors, most of who were elderly people in Limpopo and municipalities.
As expected, the red berets’ commander-in-chief denied any wrongdoing, insisting once more he was merely the victim of a political smear campaign.
“Today, they don’t carry that dark cloud of VBS. It is carried by us because the intention is to discredit us,” Malema said.
Malema insisted no one in his family had benefitted from the defunct bank.
He finally gave some insights into stories by the Daily Maverick regarding a Mahuna Investments credit card, which was shown to have been used at numerous events the EFF leader attended.
Mahuna Investments is owned by his cousin Matsobane Phaleng, whom he refers to as his brother, who is alleged to have received millions from Sgameka Projects, which is owned by Shivambu’s brother, Brian.
Sgameka was implicated in Motau’s report.
“I’ve got no one close to me who benefitted from VBS,” Malema said.
He also claimed to not have touched a “cent” of the collapsed bank’s monies.
Malema also denied ever influencing municipalities in Limpopo to invest in the bank.
Touching on his days as ANC Youth League president, the firebrand denied he was living beyond his means, claiming his salary was more than what was reported during that era.
He said the Sandown mansion, which made headlines and was an area of interest when Malema was facing tax troubles, was purchased after ANC leaders agreed to raise funds because they told him a leader of the organisation shouldn’t live in a rented home.
Malema also said because the home operated as a base, those very leaders, said it should be extended to accommodate everyone better. He added they confirmed to SARS that while the home was in his name, the money contributed to the project fell under donations.
“Some of them are ministers today, some of them are reputable businessmen and women today. So that’s why I was never charged anywhere to say you stole the money here and built a house,” Malema said.
He also continued to claim innocence on the numerous claims of fraud, corruption and money laundering linked to On-Point Engineering and the collapse of the Limpopo government.
The matter, which is back before the courts without Malema, this time around relates to the awarding of an irregular tender worth R52 million to the company, which he had shares in.
The State previously alleged Malema had substantially benefitted from the tender payment to On-Point, using it to buy a farm and a Mercedes-Benz. It said Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust was an indirect shareholder of On-Point.
The case was struck off the roll after one of his co-accused fell ill in 2015.
When Power 98.7’s Aldrin Sampear quizzed him on the matter, Malema said:
Malema insisted that former public protector advocate Thuli Madonsela found the trust not guilty of anything, hence he was not called to give his version of events.
He said his family trust “improperly” benefitted from the fraudulent, unlawful and corrupt conduct of On-Point.
Malema continued in that vein, despite being in agreement that being a beneficiary of the proceeds of crime was in of itself a crime.