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A year in the curatorship, creditors gather to prove VBS owes them money

Daily Maverick logo Daily Maverick 2019-03-13 Pauli Van Wyk
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Four prospective creditors of failed VBS Mutual Bank submitted their claims to the Master of the High Court in Polokwane on Monday in an attempt to retrieve money allegedly owed to them. Three claims, submitted by municipalities, were successful. The fourth one, the fixer and middleman Kabelo Matsepe, who has been fingered as a central and ‘ubiquitous’ presence in VBS bank robbery, now claims he is owed money for ‘consulting services’. His R21.6m claim was rejected.

Kabelo Matsepe’s claim, along with demands submitted on behalf of unions and the interested municipalities, have raised the risk that a biased liquidator – handpicked by the bank robbers themselves – may be appointed.

Matsepe, a former ANCYL leader in Limpopo, has been highlighted among the 53 “biggest recipients” of “gratuitous payments” in the VBS Mutual Bank investigation.

And yet, on Monday Matsepe’s company, of which he is the sole director – Moshate Investment Group – attempted to convince the Master of the High Court in Polokwane that the bank Matsepe allegedly helped to rob still owes it R21.6-million in “consulting services”.

The claim has been rejected for want of due filing.

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This is on top of the about R35.4-million in stolen VBS money adv. Terry Motau and law firm Werksmans found Matsepe to have pocketed already.

Matsepe labelled the R35.4-million windfall as legitimately earned “commissions”.

(Matsepe is the fixer who infamously WhatsApped VBS chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi about a Limpopo municipal manager “crying” because the bribe paid to ensure she kept the municipal purse with VBS didn’t contain an adequate number of zeros.)

VBS Mutual bank is in the process of being wound up since November 2018 after the SA Reserve Bank’s Prudential Authority brought an unopposed liquidation application before the North Gauteng High Court. The process follows SARB placing the bank under curatorship in March 2018 due to an ostensible “liquidity crisis”. It turned out to be no liquidity crisis after all, but rather that the bank was robbed into insolvency by its managers and politicians in order to prop up their lifestyle and political aspirations.

Matsepe’s claim comes as the Master of the High Court in Polokwane, represented by William Sekete, held its first meeting of VBS creditors on Monday 11 March.

The purpose of the meeting was to call upon all creditors to prove a case of money owed to them by the bank. In the process of winding up the banks’ affairs, the liquidator is tasked with the recovery of the stolen funds in order to pay back the banks’ creditors.

Only four claims were proffered, of which three municipal claims totalling R190-million were accepted and Matsepe’s rejected. The successful claimants are West Rand District Municipality in Gauteng, Mafikeng Local Municipality and Madibeng Local Municipality in North West.

That only three municipalities submitted claims to the Master of the High Court is alarming, seeing that 13 struggling municipalities in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng are owed in excess of R1.2-billion. Not one of the seven Limpopo municipalities – owed a collective R706-million – submitted any claims either.

Some of these municipalities struggle to pay salaries, and service delivery in these regions has all but ground to a halt.

In the meantime, the Prudential Authority is gearing up for yet another VBS fight in court. William Sekete, representative of the Master of the High Court in Polokwane, is seemingly unconvinced that the Mutual Banks Act trumps the Insolvency Act in relation to the Master’s powers and discretion in the appointment of the liquidator.

Sekete seems to favour the idea of appointing liquidators suggested by the creditors of VBS bank. In court papers submitted earlier in March the Prudential Authority argues that such an act – in this case – may be tantamount to handing over the reins of winding up the bank’s affairs to the very people who robbed it.

Registrar of Banks Kuben Naidoo therefore asked the North Gauteng High Court for an order that only a liquidator suggested by the Prudential Authority may be appointed. Naidoo wants Anoosh Rooplal, director at Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, appointed. Rooplal led the VBS curatorship and has intimate knowledge of the company, knows which information is needed for criminal and civil investigations, and is best placed to recover the money stolen to pay the bank’s creditors, Naidoo argues. Judgment in the matter is yet to be delivered. DM

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