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

The South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) is concerned that unionists who have taken a firm stance against the illegal raiding of coffers at Vhembe district municipality are being targeted for assassination.

The union said on Thursday that its Limpopo deputy provincial secretary, Roland Mani, had been shot and killed in Thohoyandou on Wednesday.

“Comrade Mani was killed in cold blood just hours after attending a general meeting at his workplace‚ the Vhembe district municipality‚” the union said in a statement.

“His shooting comes just days after yet another attempted assassination of Timson Tshililo‚ also an employee of the Vhembe district municipality and former Samwu Limpopo chair.”

Tshililo is currently recovering in hospital.

“We are definitely convinced that the two shootings are related as both victims are employees of the Vhembe district municipality and have been in the forefront of protests which led to the removal of mayors who illegally invested money with the now-liquidated VBS Mutual Bank.”

The alleged role of political players in the collapse of VBS, which was set up in 1982 in the former Venda homeland, was laid bare in a forensic report compiled by advocate Terry Motau and Werksmans Attorneys in October.

A large part of the fraud included municipalities in some of the poorest areas of the country depositing money with VBS, in contravention of regulations that prevented them from putting money into mutual banks. It was alleged that municipal officials were paid bribes to facilitate the deposits.

Vhembe district municipality mayor Florence Radzilani resigned, along with several mayors in the province, after the report was released. 

Samwu said the shootings in the province took place as it was preparing to intensify a campaign for more accountability and the removal of more people involved in the illegal investments.

“Seemingly VBS looters have unleashed their guns against unionists who have taken a firm stance against the illegal raiding of municipal coffers.

“This now becomes the fourth VBS-related shooting. with the first targeted at Samwu Limpopo provincial secretary Patrick Aphane, [and]... the first casualty being councillor Maupa from the Tubatse local municipality late last year.”

Police have assembled a task team to investigate the death of Mani.

“No amount of violence will deter the union from exposing corruption at municipal level‚ corruption which had severely affected service delivery‚” said the union.