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By Stephen Tau

Journalist


VBS whistle-blower still playing hide and seek

‘It is difficult for one to even relax as you never know who is following you.’


For the past five years, he’s been looking over his shoulder, worried about who might be following him. Sometimes he waits for a bullet. He only sees his family twice a month and in his current job, he sometimes stays away if he senses danger. He’s one of the country’s unsung heroes – a whistle-blower who was one of a number who spilled the beans on the corruption related to the VBS Mutual Bank. The bank has since been declared insolvent and bankrupt after clients were allegedly defrauded out of roughly R2 billion. Around 2018, the South African Reserve Bank…

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For the past five years, he’s been looking over his shoulder, worried about who might be following him. Sometimes he waits for a bullet. He only sees his family twice a month and in his current job, he sometimes stays away if he senses danger.

He’s one of the country’s unsung heroes – a whistle-blower who was one of a number who spilled the beans on the corruption related to the VBS Mutual Bank.

The bank has since been declared insolvent and bankrupt after clients were allegedly defrauded out of roughly R2 billion. Around 2018, the South African Reserve Bank had instructed municipalities to withdraw their deposits in the bank because the Municipal Finance Management Act prevented them from depositing public funds into mutual banks.

One of the municipalities which was found to have irregularly invested public funds into the bank was the Vhembe district municipality in Limpopo. This is the municipality where some employees were forced to live in hiding while others were brutally killed.

VBS whistleblower still hiding

“It is difficult for one to even relax as you never know who is following you and I don’t always report for duty due to safety reasons. The past five years have been unbearable as I have been forced to only see my family twice in a month,” said the whistle-blower who spoke on condition of anonymity.

ALSO READ: VBS whistleblower still fears for life after four years in hiding

He called on government to do more in protecting whistleblowers, stressing that more need to be done on the part of law enforcement agencies to go after the “real masterminds” behind the threats and killings of whistle-blowers.

“Government must really do more to go after the people who have been paying those murderers to come after us,” he said. “Being in hiding for five years is no different to the days of apartheid where people were forced to go into hiding and I hope that our pleas as whistle-blowers will be taken seriously.”

Many municipality employees fear for their lives

Another whistle-blower Patrick Aphane, who is a member of the South African Municipal Workers Union and whose life was threatened in 2018 when he was attacked outside his home, called on government to put more effort into fighting corruption by putting in place mechanisms which will make people desist from engaging in untoward behaviour.

ALSO READ: SACP wants corrupt ANC mayors to be shown the door

“Government needs to have something in place which will make people think twice about getting involved in corruption.

“While there has not been any renewed threats on my life, one continues to sleep with one eye open and one cannot live his or her life in hiding,” said Aphane.

He said while there is a bit of stability at the Vhembe district municipality, many employees still feared for their lives, adding government has dismally failed to protect whistle-blowers. At least two people have since been killed, while 14 went into hiding.

Son of slain VBS whistleblower wants answers

Hulisani Mani, whose father Ronald Mani was gunned down for speaking out against corruption five years ago, said they have also lost their grandparents who could not accept the brutal killing of their son.

“Last year, we lost Mashudu Mani, who is my father’s brother, due to a heart condition caused by the death of my father,” said a distraught Mani.

He added that he and his family remained deeply saddened by the death of their loved one.

“However, we are disappointed by the lack of progress in the criminal justice system because the trial into the murder of my father and his colleague has been postponed several times because the state lawyers were unavailable, something that has been causing significant distress for our family,” he said.

“We implore the legal aid to expedite the process so that we can know the people who are allegedly responsible for hiring the gunmen.”

ALSO READ: ‘Decisive action needed,’ says Mbalula on ANC members implicated in VBS scandal

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