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Was the VBS “minority” champion the victim of a scam?

News - Date: 22 April 2019

Written by: Anton van Zyl / Viewed: 3353

 

A company claiming to represent the minority shareholders of VBS Mutual Bank, is fighting to have the liquidation of this bank reversed. The company also wants the SA Reserve Bank to release the $825 million they believe was paid to them that was earmarked for development projects in South Africa.

Earlier this month, a group calling themselves the VBS Shareholders Forum held a press conference in Thohoyandou. The group stated that in July 2018, it had mandated Africapacity Investment Group to “rescue, commercialize and recapitalize” VBS Mutual Bank. A legal team was apparently tasked to investigate and evaluate all facts surrounding the VBS saga.

One of the “findings” of Africapacity’s task team was that VBS Mutual Bank had had no opportunity to defend itself in the proceedings to appoint a curator, and the step taken was thus irregular. They allege that the report, entitled “VBS Mutual – The Great Bank Heist” compiled by Werksman’s Attorneys on instruction of the curator was a “concocted story … which needs to be investigated”.

The shareholders forum also disputes the statement by National Treasury that the municipalities that invested millions in VBS had done so illegally. In their press statement they call on National Treasury to provide them with proof that the law prohibits municipalities from investing in mutual banks, arguing that these banks perform similar functions as commercial banks. “National Treasury was the main contributor of VBS’s liquidity crisis, by instructing municipalities to withdraw their investment,” the press release reads.

One of the main concerns of Africapacity, however, seems to relate to the Reserve Bank’s blocking of investment funds. The company seemingly believes that $75 million (roughly R1,12 billion) was paid into their VBS bank account by overseas investors. The funds, together with hundreds of millions of dollars paid into other accounts, are now apparently frozen because of the Reserve Bank’s refusal to admit that these funds had reached the country. “Our estimation is that more than a trillion rand has been lost in the banking system,” the press statement reads.

Who is Africapacity?

One of the first questions that popped up when the press conference was scheduled, is who exactly Africapacity Investment Group is and what mandate it holds?

The records at the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) show that the company was registered in 2009 and has two active directors, namely Nomzamo Xabanisa (31) and Nombini Xabanisa (42). The company was in the process of deregistration but became active again in 2017. The registered address is in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

The company’s chief investment officer, Enock Ratlabala, was quick to answer e-mailed questions and said that it was a 100% black-women-owned company with a majority shareholding and investment coming from overseas. He said Africapacity was a subsidiary company that was involved in project funding and development of infrastructure projects that ranged from integrated housing development to shopping centres, office parks and public facilities.

As an example of one of the many projects the company is involved with, he sent a sketch plan dating back to 2008 indicating a proposed new township at Polokwane Ext 116 and 117. The proposed “Polokwane Green City” boasts more than 20 000 housing units, a shopping centre, industrial park, office parks, seven schools, “and other public facilities worth R8 billion,” he said.

The plan, however, was compiled for Scarlet Ibis Investments 202 (Pty) Ltd and made no reference to Africapacity.

When Ratlabala was questioned on whether the municipalities were involved in these projects, he answered that “these projects are based in municipal jurisdiction and are privately owned. They are not owned by municipalities and government.”

Ratlabala was asked why and when Africacapicity was selected to represent VBS’s minority shareholders. He answered that the company had encountered this forum when trying to find “the real owners of the bank”. A letter was supplied that was signed by a Mr TA Mulaudzi and dated 20 July 2018. In this letter, Africapacity is appointed to source funding and recapitalize VBS. “The minority shareholders forum represents about 2 000 shareholders,” Ratlabala said.

Billions of dollars in investment

In documents provided to the press, Africapacity claims that the SA Reserve Bank is holding on to $825 million (R12,3 billion) in investment funding. The money was allegedly paid over in tranches to different accounts, the first being the $75 million into an FNB account. Thereafter, another $75 million was paid into a VBS account. This was followed by another tranche of $75 million, a $400 million payment into an FNB Global Dollar account and finally a $200 million payment into a Standard Bank account.

In a letter addressed to the Reserve Bank Governor in August 2018, Ratlabala states that his company has “gone out to China and America” seeking investments and has secured more than $50 billion for infrastructure development.

Numerous letters were written by Ratlabala to a wide spectrum of institutions, which include the Minister of Finance’s office, the SA Reserve Bank and even the Presidency, complaining about the blocking of funds. “Meetings have been held with the affected banks and they all point to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB),” says Ratlabala in one of these letters.

A meeting with two representatives of the SARB, Mr Anton Malherbe and Mr Joel Poeng, did take place in September 2018, but it did not turn out well for Africapacity. “Mr Malherbe told us the money does not exist and all the documents provided to him are fraudulent and fake,” says Ratlabala.

In a letter addressed to President Ramaphosa, Ratlabala threatens to open an official enquiry/case with Interpol against the SARB and the banks involved. He also offers Africapacity’s services to “clean up what is happening at the SARB including the banking industry as a whole, for the better economic development of South Africa.”

Who are the investors?

When Ratlabala was questioned as to who the investors were and what their motives were, he did not want to disclose details. “This is a private agreement between us and them; it is confidential,” he said. “These are loans to our company, not to public or government institutions. The conditions and interest is between us and our funders and it is not for public consumption.”

In documents provided during the press conference, two organisations that facilitated the funds are mentioned, namely Manna World Holdings Sovereign Trust and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPDB).

A quick search on the Internet revealed that both these institutions have chequered reputations. In January 2018, the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank was fined $72 million for illegal lending activities. This was one of the stiffest penalties handed out in China’s crackdown on wrongdoing in its financial markets. The China Banking Regulatory Commission’s bureau in the Sichuan province accused the Chengdu branch of SPDB of falsifying loan deals and hiding non-performing assets.

The bank is, however, one of China’s big commercial banks. According to Reuters, the bank operates its businesses in domestic and overseas markets, with China as its main market.

SARB does not have Manna’s permission to regulate

Manna World Holdings Sovereign Trust (MWHST) is apparently some sort of cult movement, believing in a new world order where money does not fall under the control of governments. On one website, the “Kingdom of Manna” trust is described as “the keeper of the collateral accounts for all nations. After many attempts by Manna to release funds to Nations and (being) blocked by the elites and corrupt governments, the Kingdom of Manna has been established to free up Nations and give back Sovereignty to all.”

The “leaders” are apparently a certain Kimberly Ann Goguen, Terrance Cameron McDonald, a self-professed priest, and Lewis E Taylor, a self-professed philanthropist.

In an effort to prove that the SA Reserve Bank does not have the authority to regulate the banking industry, Africapacity distributed a letter supposedly written and signed by Manna’s “Acting Head of State”, Kimberly Ann Goguen. In the letter, she claims that the SARB is a corporation owned wholly by MWHST. She then proceeds to “give it back” to the people of the country. “Manna World Holding Trust recognizes the only Royal Monarchs of South Africa to be the Tribal Kings as appointed by the people,” she states.

The SARB’s deputy governor, Mr Kuben Naidoo, eventually seemed to lose patience with Ratlabala’s persistent letters and questions. “I do not intend to deal further with the interrogatories and issues raised by you,” he writes in a letter dated 13 December 2018. Ratlabala is told to use the court processes if he or his company is still aggrieved.

Have you been scammed?

As a final question, Ratlabala was asked whether the company that he represents has not become the victim of an elaborate international scam.

“We have come across the same questions before from different stakeholders. We have done our own due diligence, on our financial partners. The local banking institutions that we are involved with have also done a due diligence on our guarantees and they are satisfied. If South African Banks don't have a problem, why should we be worried?” he said.

“The funds were also confirmed by the recent Chinese delegation’s visit to South Africa and also the South African visit to China. Several South Africans … have tried to confirm the funds, others tried to blackmail us to get access to the funds and they have failed over the last three years,” he said.

 

Africapacity’s Enock Ratlabala, VBS Minority Shareholders Forum's Madambi Muvhulawa and Africapacity’s Amon Moagi at the press conference. Photo: Phathutshedzo Luvhengo.

 

 
 

Anton van Zyl

Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.

Email: anton@zoutnet.co.za

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