At the centre of it: VBS Mutual Bank in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN
At the centre of it: VBS Mutual Bank in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/SOWETAN

VhaVenda king Toni Mphephu Ramabulana has offered to repay “any amount which will be shown to have been proceeds of the illegalities” in the VBS Mutual Bank saga‚ following the publication of the “the Great Bank Heist” report last week.

It is cited in the incriminatory SA Reserve Bank report, compiled by advocate Terry Motau, that Mphephu Ramabulana received a “gratuitous payment” of more than R17m from VBS.

The king, who said on Monday that he had read the report‚ did not appear to entirely deny that he had received some money from the bank, but suggested the amount cited was wrong.

“To the best of my knowledge, no amount of R17m was paid to me‚ gratuitous or otherwise‚” he said. “Most significantly‚ the report does not find that I was part of any criminal enterprise.”

He would pay back the money as soon as it was “computed and [I] am directed where the repayment must be made and the terms of such repayments” are made, he said.

Any such amounts as may be shown to have been payments flowing from the fraudulent and/or criminal sources involving VBS‚ I would have received without knowledge of the criminal wrongdoing which the report identifies

For someone in his position‚ he would never have knowingly accepted proceeds of wrongdoing, he said.

“In my capacity as the king of the VhaVenda people‚ I receive various grants including financial support from various individuals and entities. Any such receipts I deem them to be legitimate‚ untainted‚ and bona fide support to the responsibilities I hold in relation to VhaVenda people‚” Mphephu Ramabulana said.

“Any such amounts as may be shown to have been payments flowing from the fraudulent and/or criminal sources involving VBS‚ I would have received without knowledge of the criminal wrongdoing which the report identifies‚” he said.

Motau’s report cites that Paul Makhavhu‚ an attorney who is also an adviser to the king‚ “received vast sums of money for lending the support and influence of the royal family to VBS and Vele”. According to the report‚ Makhavhu has described the receipt of payments from VBS as “shameful”.

On how the king ended up in the VBS fold‚ the report said he was approached through Makhavhu in 2013 “to put together a structure to acquire a stake in VBS”.

Investigators were told that this “led to the establishment of Dyambeu Investments … owned by Brilliant Telecommunications‚ Promafco and the VhaVenda Trust representing the Venda royal family”.

“VhaVenda held 51% of the shares in Dyambeu, with Brilliant Telecommunications and Promafco each holding 24.5%. Dyambeu then purchased 26% of VBS for R6m.”

The king said he was not happy that investigators of the VBS saga had not approached him to get his side of the story.

“It is to be regretted that Advocate Motau SC and Werksmans Attorneys did not deem it necessary to afford me an opportunity to be interviewed and to also give my version and correct the conclusions which they were to make in the report. I am advised that the laws of natural justice require a person against whom adverse statements and findings to be made to be given an opportunity of reply — audi partem rule‚” he said.

Had he been approached there was “no doubt” Motau and Werksmans “would have known the grave damage the mention of my name in the report would have to me personally as well as to the kingship of VhaVenda people”, he said.

“I was entitled to a fairer treatment‚” he said.

Mphephu Ramabulana has also acknowledged the effect the VBS saga has had on ordinary people.

“The financial ruin‚ the cold theft to the vulnerable of our people‚ is inimical to the vision my father had as a founding member of this building society. My heart goes out to those who were harmed by this ruthless enterprise‚” he said.