Make the looters pay a hefty price
The arrest of eight people who are allegedly behind the theft of R2,7bn from VBS Mutual Bank is welcome and we hope it will lead to convictions.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (better known as Hawks) head, Lit-Gen Godfrey Lebeya told reporters yesterday that the eight will be charged with 47 counts of various criminal offences.
These include racketeering, theft, fraud and money laundering. Lebeya said during their probe the Hawks had discovered that at least 20 municipalities had deposited R3.7bn into VBS, in violation of the law. R2.2bn of that money has been paid back.
"The investigation has revealed that the eight suspects either unduly, directly or indirectly benefited more than R120m," he added.
The accused, except for one who is in quarantine after contracting Covid-19, were expected to make their first appearance in court today.
Alongside Lebeya at the press briefing was national director of prosecutions Shamila Batohi, who commended the team on the success. "The team has to be meticulous. We have to do this to ensure justice does prevail and the rule of law prevails as well."
Indeed, as Batohi has said, we hope justice will prevail and the arrests will result in long prison terms and most of the money being recouped. For almost two years now, police have been under pressure to make arrests in connection with the biggest bank heist South Africa has ever seen.
Now that we are finally here with the suspects behind bars, we hope thorough investigations and all proper procedures were followed as it would be embarrassing to see any of the accused walk free after this.
Rural municipalities lost millions of rands in the robbery, leading to some being placed under administration after they battled to pay salaries and to service their debts.
Ordinary, poor South Africans, many based in Limpopo, lost their money invested in VBS as part of stokvels or burial societies.
We still have stark memories of the elderly queueing outside the bank hoping to get their cash after the scandal broke. The law cannot afford to bungle this one. The poor people deserve justice.