EFF mum on Shivambu and VBS report
Party has not yet said how it will deal with Floyd Shivambu’s apparent interest in VBS through his brother
The EFF, having often commented on the VBS Mutual Bank scandal before, has remained mum on the implication of the brother of its deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, by a Reserve Bank report.
The EFF has also not responded to questions on the party and Shivambu benefiting or receiving funds from what is called the “Great Bank Heist”.
EFF leader Julius Malema is set to address media on Tuesday. Business Day sent questions to Shivambu after details from the forensic report published by advocate Terry Motau into the failure of VBS revealed his brother, Brian, had received in excess of R16m in the form of “gratuitous payments”.
Motau said Brian Shivambu, personally and through an entity in his control, received money from VBS “for no apparent reason. We have not interviewed him, or seen him. He was one of many names that received money without any apparent cause,” Motau said.
One allegation is that Brian Shivambu may have been fronting for his brother Floyd and the EFF, receiving payments for “opening doors” to municipalities that may have deposited money with VBS.
Brian Shivambu issued a statement on Thursday saying he had no link to VBS and had never met with any municipality or depositor to encourage them to deposit money into the bank.
He said he had never been contacted by the investigators, and threatened to take legal action against the “owners of the VBS report” for defaming him and his company.
“I am aware that my brother’s name has been raised in relation to this matter. I am a private businessman and I do not intend to involve myself or my family in political debates,” he said.
Daily Maverick reported on Thursday that the EFF had allegedly received R1.3m “illegally flowing” from VBS into the party’s bank account. It also reported that Brian Shivambu had allegedly funnelled about R10m through his company into Floyd’s personal bank account.
The EFF had a real opportunity this week to show SA’s voters that it holds itself and its members to the same high standards it demands of government leaders. However, the party, which identifies itself as a champion for the rights of the poor and marginalised, is completely blowing that chance.
The EFF’s reaction to the SA Reserve Bank’s report on the R2bn looting of VBS Mutual Bank — which names the brother of its deputy president Floyd Shivambu as a beneficiary of R16m in “gratuitous payments” from the bank — can best be described as a total cop-out.
The party resorted to a strategy long used by the ANC in responding to damning findings made by the public protector, auditor-general or other oversight bodies: refer the alleged wrongdoing to law enforcement and avoid any responsibility in holding your own senior leaders accountable.
In a statement released late on Wednesday night, the EFF made no specific mention of Shivambu’s brother, and did not say it would conduct its own investigation into the Bank’s damning findings. Nor did it respond to questions about whether the party’s, and particularly Shivambu’s, attack on the Bank for placing VBS under curatorship — which enable the investigation — had in any way been driven by Shivambu's apparent personal interest in VBS.
Instead, the EFF reiterated that “all who are responsible and illegally benefited from the fraud must be criminally prosecuted immediately” and “blacklisted”.
“Above all,”. the party added, “the law enforcement agencies must do all they can to ensure that all the money that can be recovered must be paid back in full, including attaching properties of the individuals who benefited from the defrauding of the VBS.”
The expediency of that answer must be seen in light of an almost universal awareness of the Hawks’ and National Prosecuting Authority’s apparent incapability to investigate and prosecute serious commercial crime and corruption. Even if such an investigation is undertaken, it will take years to be finalised. So relying on a dysfunctional criminal justice system is a cynical and expedient way for the EFF to kick this festering can of alleged fraud further down the road.
It also seems the party has no intention of holding Shivambu to account for the very public way he went after Treasury deputy directorgeneral Ismail Momoniat in parliament. Momoniat helped to place VBS under curatorship.
Just months after the Treasury had made that decision, Shivambu attacked Momoniat for not being African. “Our issue that is of genuine political concern is that National Treasury is led by a director-general who is an African. But there it looks like there are deliberate attempts to undermine African leadership in National Treasury,” he stated. He later added: “I’m saying he is undermining African leadership!”
The EFF also released a statement that slammed “opting for curatorship” of VBS as undermining the bank, and said it “undermines black people’s participation in the ownership and control of financial services institutions”.
The party’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi further stated: “The EFF is aware that VBS is being victimised due to a loan it gave to Jacob Zuma for a house in Nkandla. Had it been a white-owned bank that had offered Zuma a loan, they would not be subject to victimisation today.”
The party has not yet commented whether its leadership had any knowledge that Shivambu had a personal interest in the bank not being placed under curatorship or its apparent looting not being investigated when it made these statements,.
What makes the EFF’s silence even more disturbing is how resoundingly it contrasts with its vocal calls for the firing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene hours before the VBS forensic report was made public.
On Tuesday, party officials such as Ndlozi celebrated the announcement that Nene had stepped down from his position, following evidence to the Zondo commission of inquiry that showed he had lied to the media about having multiple meetings with the Gupta family.
Nene also came under fire over his son’s dealings with the state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) — which manages the pensions of hundreds of thousands of public servants — while the former finance minister was chair of the PIC. A senior official at the PIC resigned over the VBS scandal. There are also allegations that PIC CEO Dan Matjila received a R5m bribe from VBS.
In response to the allegations about his son’s PIC dealings, Nene denied using his position to benefit his family. However, the EFF were unconvinced and wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa to demand that Nene be fired.
“Nene has lied on numerous occasions about his role in cabinet and government. He has also facilitated the capture of the state by the criminal Gupta syndicate,” Ndlozi stated.
“The EFF is of the view that, in the current ‘difficult’ economic times, SA does not need a minister of finance with a ‘questionable character’ and ‘unethical conduct’.”
Following Nene’s resignation, the EFF called on Ramaphosa to fire other cabinet ministers for “unethical” conduct.
“Ramaphosa must apply the same consistency with other ministers who continue to serve in his cabinet, like Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane and Bathabile Dlamini,” Ndlozi said in a statement.
Hours after that statement was released, the VBS report was published.
The EFF faces one of the most defining moments in its young history. It is a party that made a name for itself in its unwavering campaign to hold the country's political untouchables to account. Now it appears to be unwilling to do even the mildest interrogation of its own leadership.
It is not good enough for any political party to defer responsibility to investigate alleged wrongdoing within, or close to, its ranks to law enforcement.
Particularly in circumstances where the power and public profile of that party have been used to attack a legitimate process and investigation.
If the EFF fails to deal with these issues truthfully and convincingly, it will inevitably fuel questions about the party’s outspoken criticism of institutions or officials and whether it is genuinely driven by a desire to fight the cause of SA’s most vulnerable and downtrodden.
Or whether it is just another hidden weapon, in another dirty war.