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Another week, another VBS arrest: Acting CFO of the Merafong Municipality, Thys Wienekus

Another week, another VBS arrest: Acting CFO of the Merafong Municipality, Thys Wienekus

The acting CFO of the Merafong Municipality, 90km west of Johannesburg, Thys Wienekus, was arrested early on Thursday morning for his alleged role in the municipality investing and losing millions of rand in the VBS Mutual Bank heist. This is the first arrest in the second wave of VBS investigations, focusing on wrongdoing at the municipality level. Wienekus seems set to become a state witness.

Thys Wienekus was arrested and charged on Thursday morning with contravention of section 173(3) of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) when he made an alleged illegal investment of R50-million in VBS Mutual Bank.

In terms of the act, Wienekus is essentially charged with gross negligence that is unbecoming of his senior managerial position as chief financial officer (CFO) of the Merafong Municipality. This is a punishable offence that holds a penalty of imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or an appropriate fine.

Wienekus’ arrest marks the first in the VBS municipal investigations leg.

It follows on the first eight arrests last week where the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) nabbed the kingpins in the VBS heist as well as the chartered accountants, attorney and other officials who kept the secret.

Wienekus appeared in the specialised commercial crimes court in Pretoria on Thursday morning. The matter has been postponed to 29 July for his plea and a section 105a sentence under the Criminal Procedure Act. This indicates that Wienekus plans to turn state witness and assist the court in understanding the matter before it. If the court finds Wienekus to have been helpful, open and transparent, Wienekus may be allowed a lesser sentence.

The NPA’s charge sheet states that Wienekus made a R50-million investment with VBS Mutual Bank in contravention of the MFMA. Wienekus knew the investment was not permitted, the charge sheet reads, but was instructed by Municipal Manager Romeo Mohaudi to do so.

Curiously, Wienekus was acting CFO for exactly three days – 20 June 2017 to 23 June 2017 – when, on the last day of his stint as financial head, the investment was slipped through. 

This week amaBhungane wrote that audit reports show how senior officials, including Mohaudi, bent over backwards to invest in VBS. The money was lost when the bank was robbed into insolvency.

The arrests must be understood against the background of the findings by investigator adv. Terry Motau and law firm Werksmans, who probed the implosion of VBS at behest of the Reserve Bank in 2018, and found that “VBS went on a concerted and deliberate campaign to attract very substantial deposits from municipalities… by the payment of so-called “commissions” in order to solicit such deposits. This, in many instances, included the payment of bribes to various public officials who were in a position to influence the making of such deposits”. DM

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