SA TIMES -High-profile political leaders connected to the looting are set to be the last group to be rounded up.The Hawks are rounding up all those implicated in the looting of VBS Mutual Bank, and sources say it won’t be long before more answer for their crime
A second wave of arrests is imminent in connection with the VBS Mutual Bank heist, following the appearance of seven suspects at the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
The next round of arrests will see the spotlight falling on the 14 municipalities which deposited R1.6 billion into VBS, which contravened Municipal Finance Management Act regulations that prohibit municipalities from investing funds with a mutual bank
While the first arrests this week targeted eight key suspects – most of whom were VBS directors and board members – the next will see the focus shifting to the municipal officials and high-profile business people who had a hand in the bank’s demise.
City Press has been reliably informed by sources in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) that municipal workers including mayors, municipal managers and chief financial officers, are the next targets.
High-profile political leaders connected to the looting are set to be the last group to be rounded up.
In total, 20 municipalities deposited at least R3.7 billion, of which R1.5 billion was never paid back by the now defunct bank.
Another source in the Hawks told City Press that the Asset Forfeiture Unit, a department under the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was monitoring the developments and would soon step in and seize assets belonging to the accused.
“At an appropriate time, our unit will strike and recover some of the money lost during the pillaging of the bank,” they said.
The source also confirmed that high-profile business people were on the Hawks’ radar.
There are more than a 1 000 testimonies which have been submitted and they are directing the Hawks in different directions.
“The next leg of arrests will definitely see municipal officials and high-profile businesspeople behind bars. Political figures will most likely be the last people to face the music,” he said.
Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, national head of the Hawks, and National Director of Public Prosecution advocate Shamila Batohi, while giving an update on the status of the investigations into VBS during a media briefing this week, confirmed that the current arrests were the first leg of an ongoing investigation.
The DA, which laid several criminal charges against municipal workers who were implicated in the looting, said those who had resigned from their jobs following the scandal should be brought to book in the interest of justice and the communities which were affected by their actions.
“The fact that they have resigned and taken up new posts without answering to serious breaches of law which happened under their fiduciary watch undermines the municipal disciplinary system and the investigations into municipal VBS deposits.
“It is in the interest of local communities that municipal managers and the CFOs of municipalities are held to account,” said DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Cilliers Brink.
He alleged that former municipal CFOs in North West resigned from their jobs and were then re-appointed as municipal managers in Limpopo.
“They are Nancy Rampedi from Moretele Local Municipality, who is now the municipal manager of Makhuduthamaga Local Municipality in Limpopo, and Morris Maluleka, from Madibeng Local Municipality,” Brink said.
He also alleged that the acting municipal manager of Merafong Local Municipality was seconded to the West Rand District Municipality by Gauteng Cogta MEC Lebogang Maile and was currently employed at the district municipality.
At Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality the municipal manager is on suspension with full pay and disciplinary proceedings are ongoing, while in the Vhembe District Municipality the municipal manager and the CFO reached a settlement agreement with the municipality and resigned.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) said the arrests were long overdue and many people, including mayors and politicians, should be brought to book in the interest of justice.
“We welcome the arrests and the commitment shown by the NPA, but these arrests are long overdue. The fact that the ANC removed mayors from the affected municipalities and redeployed them somewhere else is not good enough because they have not been held accountable, just like the politicians. They should all be arrested because that money will most likely never be recovered,” said Samwu general-secretary Koena Ramotlou.