Ram­pant fi­nan­cial loot­ing rips the poor

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO OPINION -

While finger point­ing, name sham­ing and de­fend­ing those im­pli­cated took cen­tre stage this week, it was or­di­nary South Africans and vul­ner­a­ble go­gos who stood out­side the doors of the be­lea­guered bank wait­ing for their money.

The cold facts of the con­tro­ver­sial VBS Mu­tual Bank ‘heist’ is that the al­most R2­bil­lion re­port­edly looted was clients’ life sav­ings and de­posits, along with mil­lions of rands de­posited by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Yet again, those who faced the brunt of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion, fraud, mis­man­age­ment and poor gov­er­nance were the poor­est of the poor and al­ready over­stretched tax­pay­ers. Gov­ern­ment funds which could have been chan­nelled to im­prove the lives of South Africans were squan­dered and the ques­tion is: who will be held ac­count­able?

The in­de­pen­dent re­port com­mis­sioned by the SA Re­serve Bank to probe the col­lapse of the mu­tual bank found there was ‘wide-scale loot­ing and pil­lag­ing of the monies placed on de­posit at VBS’.

The re­port la­belled a list of 50 peo­ple who ‘gra­tu­itously’ re­ceived cash from VBS over a three-year pe­riod, com­menc­ing in March 2015.

The irony is that loot­ing and in­ef­fi­ciency have the same ef­fect. The prob­lem with South African lead­er­ship is that we are con­stantly tak­ing re­ac­tive steps to solve glar­ing gov­er­nance over­sight.

Sins of omis­sion or com­mis­sion, poor ad­min­is­tra­tion and bank­ing in­ef­fi­cien­cies brought about the bank’s down­fall.

Poor de­ci­sion-mak­ing, fail­ure to con­duct sys­tem checks and bal­ances and gross neg­li­gence were at the root of the col­lapse.

As em­ploy­ees of the em­bat­tled fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion re­ceived let­ters ter­mi­nat­ing their em­ploy­ment this week, the cu­ra­tor team said VBS had suf­fered losses in the last fi­nan­cial year as a re­sult of ‘mis­man­age­ment as well as acts of fraud com­mit­ted by the em­ployer’s lead­er­ship’.

At what point of the R2-bil­lion loot­ing did au­thor­i­ties re­alise there was no com­ing back from this?

A fidu­ciary is sup­posed to be ‘an in­di­vid­ual in whom another has placed the ut­most trust and con­fi­dence to man­age and pro­tect prop­erty or money. It is the re­la­tion­ship wherein one per­son has an obli­ga­tion to act for another’s ben­e­fit.’

Peo­ples’ trust in the South African bank­ing and fi­nan­cial sec­tor has been bro­ken.

The sad re­al­ity is that it is prob­a­bly safer to re­vert to keep­ing one’s sav­ings un­der the mat­tress, be­cause if this sort of loot­ing does not end, the end re­sult will be a cri­sis such as Zim­babwe is fac­ing.

The harsh re­al­ity is that the ‘fat cats’ at the helm, un­der the pre­tense of fight­ing for the poor, are get­ting flab­bier by the day and the lean man on the street is barely scrap­ing to sur­vive.

We do not need another com­mis­sion of en­quiry which is another fu­tile and ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise. What we need is to see the per­pe­tra­tors fac­ing the full might of the law.

It is al­ways the poor who bear the brunt of fat cat mis­de­meanours, writes RONELLE RAMSAMY

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