VBS: A Dream Defrauded by Dewald van Rensburg is out now from Penguin Random House.
Originally the Venda Building Society, VBS Mutual Bank was a small, little-known lender in Limpopo before it rocketed from obscurity in 2016 by giving President Jacob Zuma a controversial home loan to repay the state for improvements to his Nkandla homestead. The bank was growing rapidly and sold itself as a fearless champion of black advancement. Its owner, Vele Investments, was on a meteoritic trajectory towards becoming a financial conglomerate worthy of national attention.
When the bank abruptly went into curatorship in March 2018, no one had any reason to doubt that it was just another unfortunate corporate failure. Then the astonishing truth emerged: the collapse of VBS was due to an epic R2-billion fraud that had created Vele’s empire out of thin air and left the bank a hollow shell.
VBS: A Dream Defrauded unravels the fraud, exploring how suspected mastermind Tshifhiwa Matodzi and his associates first took control of VBS, fed ANC patronage networks and operated under a nationalist mantle endorsed by Venda royalty. The book explains how the bank and its shareholder Vele were seemingly built into a multi-billion-rand business, exposes the political machinations that guaranteed VBS up to R3.5 billion in unlawful funding from municipalities and other state institutions, and describes the free-for-all that ensued after the bank’s collapse, when all involved tried to cover their tracks.
Written by one of the journalists who first broke the story, this book draws on interviews with VBS insiders and other role-players, as well as documents and detailed forensic evidence collected in the course of two years of investigations.
This is a compelling account of a bank heist whose shockwaves continue to haunt the politicians, businessmen and traditional leaders who enabled it.