Minister of cooperative governance Zweli Mkhize. File picture: Twitter

Parliament - Government would "aggressively pursue" lawsuits to recover as much of the R1.57 billion illegally invested by South African municipalities in the failed VBS mutual bank, Cooperative Governance Minister Zweli Mkhize told MPs on Tuesday.

Mkhize, while briefing Parliament's portfolio committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said several of the 14 municipalities who invested monies from grants from National Treasury and from their own revenue with VBS were experiencing financial problems.

"It's not possible for R1.57 bln or even R2bln to just disappear, untracebable," Mkhize said.

"We need to really go aggressively to recover this money."

Mkhize said the three affected provinces - North West, Limpopo and Gauteng - had instituted forensic investigations to find out how the money was invested and who was responsible for the investments which breached the Municipal Investment Regulations.

"We are moving past the point of exclamations about the extent of the fraud. We are getting to a point where we need to both act on individuals and also start pursuing mechanisms to start recovering this money," he said.

The affected municipalities and the money involved are:

- Merafong Local Municipality (R50 million) in Gauteng;

- West Rand District Muncipality (R77.3 mln) in Gauteng;

- Moretele Local Municipality (R50.4 mln) in North West;

- Madibeng Local Municipality (R31.5mln) in North West;

- Mafikeng Local Municipality (R83.4mln) in North West;

- Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality (R150mln) North West;

- Makhado Local Municipality (R62.7 mln) in Limpopo;

- Greater Giyani Local Municipality (R153.2 mln) in Limpopo,

-  Collins Chabane Local Municipality (R122.4mln) in Limpopo;
 
- Elias Motswaledi Local Municipality (R48,247) in Limpopo;

- Vhembe District Municipality (R316.3 mln) in Limpopo;

- Ephraim Mogale Local Municipality (R83.4 mln) in Limpopo;

- Tubatse Fetakgomo Local Municipality (R240.6 mln) in Limpopo; and

- Lepelle Nkumpi Local Municipality (R155.3 mln) in Limpopo

The municipalities were among thousands of depositors who lost money at the mutual bank.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) placed VBS under curatorship in March, and a report entitled "The Great Bank Heist" released by the central bank this month said some 50 people gratuitously received close to R2 billion from the Limpopo-based institution over a three-year period starting in March 2015.

African News Agency/ANA