The little-known VBS Mutual Bank has four branches in South Africa.
The little-known VBS Mutual Bank has four branches in South Africa.

Municipal official who invested R50m council funds in VBS to turn state witness

By Baldwin Ndaba Time of article published Sep 30, 2020

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Pretoria - A Merafong Local Municipality official, Thys Wienekus, who allegedly invested R50 million of municipal funds with VBS Mutual Bank, is still set to turn state witness against a former official who allegedly coerced him to invest the funds.

Wienekus was due to give the details in the Pretoria Special Commercial Crimes Court but has yet to reach an agreement with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for an appropriate sentence for him in exchange for his testimony.

He made a brief appearance in the commercial crimes court but the case against him was postponed until December 9.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema confirmed the reasons for the postponement, saying it was for the finalisation of a plea agreement between the two parties.

Wienekus was initially charged on June 25 with contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA).

He faces one charge and is accused of transferring R50m from Merafong municipality’s bank account into VBS Bank in June 2017 even though he knew that it was against the law to do so.

The MFMA prohibits municipalities from banking with or making investments with mutual banks such as VBS.

They can only make investments with commercial banks.

On his next appearance on July 29, Wienekus indicated his intention to the prosecution to turn state witness.

At the time of the commission of the alleged fraud, Wienekus was an acting chief financial officer while the incumbent Rinkie Ngwenya was on leave.

All these details are contained in the forensic report commissioned by Gauteng Treasury then under Barbara Creecy.

Creecy - who was MEC of Finance at the time - set up the forensic investigation following a request from mayor Maphefo Mogale-Letsie and former West Rand District Council mayor Boycie Maneli in March 2018.

In that final report, the auditing firm found that the two mayors were not involved in any wrongdoing.

The report also found that the two municipalities must obtain a legal opinion before acting on the officials who were fingered in the alleged investment.

In Merafong, Mogale-Letsie acted against Wienekus. He was given a final written warning which was wholly suspended for 12 months. She also acted against Martha Chauke who was also given a final written warning wholly suspended for 12 months.

Last month, the Gauteng ANC asked Mogale-Letsie and Maneli to step down from their positions for having allegedly failed to act against officials implicated in VBS.

But Mogale-Letsie and Maneli have since appealed their party’s decision to the ANC’s national appeals committee.

The Gauteng ANC’s decision came as Wienekus is widely expected to sign a Section 205 statement where he would accept responsibility for investing the municipal funds.

Political Bureau

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