WhatsApp messages show how VBS payments flowed to trusts linked to Malema, Shivambu - report

Floyd Shivambu, Julius Malema and other EFF party leaders. (Jabu Kumalo, Daily Sun)
Floyd Shivambu, Julius Malema and other EFF party leaders. (Jabu Kumalo, Daily Sun)
  • A series of WhatsApps uncovered by Scorpio reveal a pattern of VBS Mutual Bank money channelled to EFF leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu.
  • Both Malema and Shivambu previously denied they ever benefitted from the looting at VBS, but never challenged the accusations in court.
  • A report estimated that nearly R2 billion was looted from the bank, benefitting more than 50 people.

A WhatsApp discussion between former VBS Mutual Bank chair Tshifhiwa Matodzi and former VBS treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane suggests a close relationship between Matodzi and EFF leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, an investigation by Scorpio has revealed.

Scorpio previously revealed that Malema and Shivambu were beneficiaries of millions of VBS money that was paid to Sgameka Projects – a company owned by Shivambu's brother Brian.

Malema has in the past claimed that the EFF never received VBS money and Shivambu accused Scorpio journalist Pauli van Wyk of "dubious agendas".

WATCH | 'It is a fabrication, it is unfounded' - Malema denies VBS allegations

In 2018, advocate Terry Motau released his report, titled The Great Bank Heist, into fraud and corruption at VBS, compiled with Werksmans Attorneys. It estimated that nearly R2 billion was looted from the bank. More than 50 people benefitted, News24 reported.

The report revealed that Brian Shivambu received R16 million from the now collapsed VBS Mutual Bank. While Shivambu claimed he was paid for work done as a consultant through his company Vele Investments, Sgameka Projects had no invoices for any work done, paid no tax, employees or any other operating costs, according to Scorpio. The company's sole source of income was VBS.

The WhatsApp messages uncovered by Scorpio, published on Sunday by Daily Maverick, reportedly reveal that Matodzi instructed former VBS treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane to deposit R5 million into Sgameka Projects' bank account.

The company conducted no work and provided no invoice to deserve the payment.

According to Scorpio, the money did not emanate from Vele Investments as Brian Shivambu claimed, but another VBS-linked company named Malibongwe Petroleum Pty Ltd.

Within hours, R500 000 was reportedly sent to Mahuna Investments, ostensibly owned by Malema's cousin Matsobane Phaleng, while Grand Azania, linked to Floyd Shivambu, reportedly received R400 000.

Malema has previously denied any links to Mahuna.

Up to December 2017, six further payments were reportedly made by WhatsApp instruction.

Scorpio reports that Matodzi personally ordered R9.55 million in VBS loot to be moved to Sgameka Projects during this period. In total, R18.76 million reportedly made its way to the EFF leaders.

Within days, this money was reportedly used for the following:
  • Malema's slush fund Mahuna Investments received R600 000 in two payments. In the following days, it sent at least R100 000 to the EFF's bank account and paid over R100 000 in travel costs that also seemed to have benefited the party.
  • Malema paid school fees for two of his children and refurbished the pool at one of his properties, bought furniture for about R27 000 and effected a R7 139 payment to "Bodylife".
  • Malema channelled more than R100 000 to Mekete Lodge in Limpopo – the party venue the Malema family partially built with stolen VBS money.
  • He also used the bank card to pay tens of thousands for products from Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Makro and Usave Liquors.
  • Shivambu spent money in October 2017 on a house for his parents and himself in Johannesburg, including R30 000 on cutlery and "bedding".

The last payment to Sgameka Projects ordered by Matodzi on 28 December 2017 amounted to R350 000 for "lobbying fees", Scorpio has revealed.

The Shivambus and Malema did not react to Scorpio's questions, it reported. Mukhodobwane declined to comment and Matodzi could not be reached.

Neither Shivambu nor Malema had reacted to the allegations on their social media accounts by Monday morning.

In November, Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya said he expected "imminent action" in the case against those responsible for looting VBS, News24 reported.

Lebeya said that while certain parts of the investigation had been completed, investigators had to act strategically in carrying out arrests.

"You see, when you are dealing with complicated matters, you cut them into legs. As I speak, I can say that, from my point of view, there are certain legs that are ready. But it's not all the legs that are ready. We don't wait for all the legs, but you have got to do it strategically so that, when you hit one, the other birds don't fly away elsewhere.

"So there is a strategic way of dealing with that. So I think, in one area we are ready, but in another area there is still something that needs to be done," says Lebeya.

The Hawks boss says he had expected movement on the case some time ago, but it was up to prosecutors to decide when to act.

 - Compiled by Riaan Grobler

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