Zweli Mkhize rejects insinuations of impropriety over VBS funds
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday categorically stated that he has never assisted VBS Mutual Bank in securing any funding from municipalities or any other state institution.
The Sunday Times recently reported on text messages exchanged between former VBS chairman Tshifhiwa Matodzi and the bank's former head of treasury‚ Phophi Mukhodobwane‚ who claimed they had paid Mkhize R2m in his capacity as ANC treasurer-general at the time.
The two alleged in their conversation that the R2m donation in 2016 was paid with the undertaking that Mkize would help raise money from municipalities and state institutions.
Mkhize said in a statement on Wednesday: "As previously placed on record‚ I wish to emphasise once again that I‚ in my capacity as treasurer-general (TG) of the ANC‚ have never assisted VBS in securing any funding from municipalities or any other state institution."
"There was never‚ at any time‚ any expectation created by me that I would assist them in securing state funding including that of municipalities‚" he stated‚ adding this suggestion was "untrue and laughable".
"There has never been a promise by me for any political ‘cover’ or protection of any sort made to directors of VBS."
He confirmed that he had met with VBS management and directors. "This was a formally arranged meeting with the TG’s office. This meeting was meant to introduce the bank to the organisation and to make one understand its business model."
"This was nothing uncommon as I constantly met and interacted with representatives of various institutions‚ including other financial institutions."
"This meeting was never about favours for them but rather to engage and share the ANC transformation vision. As a leader‚ it was incumbent on me to listen to any concerns or challenges that businesses‚ both big and small‚ had or wished to share with the organisation."
"I have always done this in any capacity or position given to me by the ANC as part of our constant stakeholder engagements and to ensure that the ANC is seen to be attending to and working closely with the private sector."
"Furthermore‚ let me state clearly that I have never exchanged any SMS correspondence requesting a donation for the ANC with any VBS director or representative. Any assertion to the contrary is false. I also did not request any form of donation in exchange for doing a favour for them‚ such as securing funding from state institutions or municipalities. If any financial contribution was made to the ANC by VBS or any other company‚ this would have been without any influence or commitment from the ANC to do favours.
"I have no direct knowledge or personal recollection of the R2m donation by VBS during my tenure as TG as reported."
Mkhize said if any donors wanted clarity on any donation they may have made‚ they could approach the ANC treasurer-general's office for investigation. "As a general practice‚ the office of the TG sends letters requesting donations ahead of major events such as gala dinners or rallies to hundreds of business leaders and private companies‚ including banks. This is an open practice. Those that wish to make a contribution‚ do so in good faith and not in exchange for or expectation of any favours.
"At the stated time of the meeting I held with VBS bank‚ I was unaware of their relationship with municipalities."
"I only became aware of this relationship with municipalities and suspected fraud involving the VBS bank when this matter featured in the media earlier this year. "It needs to be made explicitly clear that the SMS messages exchanged by VBS directors as reported in the media article were not a conversation with me."
Mkhize said in his capacity as the minister of CoGTA‚ "I will continue to support the various ongoing investigations and further take the necessary steps within my powers to ensure that those who stole monies from municipalities that was meant for service delivery‚ face the long arm of the law. Further we have committed to investigate all possible ways to recover the public funds from those who illegally benefited."