VBS Investor Municipality Rocked By Intimidation Of Vhembe Mayor

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Photo: EWN

LUCAS LEDWABA

A MEMBER of the mayoral council of a Limpopo municipality that invested and lost R300 million in the ill-fated VBS Mutual Bank is expected to appear in court on Monday after allegedly intimating colleagues following a council reshuffle.

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Although details of the suspect’s identity have been withheld, provincial police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the arrested person is a 38 year old member of the council. Police reports initially indicated the suspect was a member of the Thulamela Municipal Council.

However, Thulamela council spokesman Nndwamato Tshila refuted this, saying the suspect was in fact from Vhembe.

Mojapelo confirmed this saying the complainants in the matter were the Vhembe District Municipality executive mayor Nenguda Dowelani and Thulamela local municipality mayor Avhashoni Tshifhango.

The Vhembe District Municipality which incorporates a large portion of the far north eastern part of Limpopo is among 11 municipalities that invested public funds totalling R2.6-billion into VBS Mutual Bank in violation of municipal finance regulations and in disregard of warnings by national treasury.

Seven of the mayors, including Vhembe’s Florence Radzilani, were fired as a result of the scandal.

However, no one has been arrested since the revelations two years ago.

Mojapelo said members of the SAPS Provincial Investigations Unit and the Tracking Team effected the arrest on Saturday morning at about 11h00.

He said this was after the 38 year old cases of intimidation were opened at Thohoyandou police station on Friday night.

Mojapelo said the suspect is apparently one of the MMCs who were on Sunday 31 May 2020 reshuffled during a council sitting and after this process, he allegedly sent intimidatory video clips to the two complainants.

“The police subsequently received information on the suspect’s whereabouts, after he was reported to be somewhere in Polokwane and swiftly followed it up. The suspect was then apprehended at his house in Polokwane this [Saturday] morning,” he said.

Acting Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service in Limpopo Major General Jan Petrus Scheepers has commended the members for their swift response.

“The arrest of the suspect will send a strong message to everyone that the police in this Province will promptly act against anyone who threatens to kill any person for whatever reason,” concluded General Scheepers.

Fear has gripped the Vhembe district in the wake of the VBS scandal following reports of intimidation.

Late last year, the parliamentary portfolio committee on co-operative governance made an oversight visit to the municipality in Thohoyandou to probe the scandal.

However, people who lost thousands of rands in life savings when the bank collapsed in 2018 stayed away from the gathering allegedly fearful that speaking out against the looters in public could lead to them being killed.

The killing of two SA Municipal Workers Union leaders, Ronald Mani and Tshililo Timson Musetsho, who were gunned down in separate incidents earlier last year has also silenced critics.

Mani and Musetsho received deaths threats for calling on law enforcement agencies to act against those implicated in VBS corruption.

They were both employees at the municipality.

Advocate Nndwamato Themeli, who was representing Musetsho and Mani in their battle against the municipality before they were both killed, survived a suspected assassination attempt in August last year after he was shot 23 times by unknown gunmen.

A 27-year-old man Thabo Sibandze, has appeared in court several times after being arrested and charged for intimidating union members who spoke out against the VBS scandal.

(Compiled by Inside Metros staff)

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