Venda king Toni Ramabulana will receive a herd of cattle from the directors of the company that owns VBS Mutual Bank, as an apology for the “embarrassment caused to him” when his name was dragged into the bank’s problems.
Robert Madzonga, CEO of Vele Investments, said in a statement yesterday that the directors would visit the king’s official residence, House at Dzata, in Dzanani, Limpopo.
“Vele Investments wishes to formally apologise to the king and his royal family and the entire VhaVenda nation for what they are going through as a result of the negative publicity,” he said.
The Sunday Times reported last week that money looted from VBS had been used to shower the king with gifts worth almost R12-million, including a R7.8-million house at Dainfern Golf Estate, a R1.1-million Range Rover Sport, a R1.5-million BMW 750Li, and a R1.3-million Mercedes-Benz Viano.
Money from VBS was also used to buy a Bell 222 helicopter to be used by the king and directors of Vele.
Madzonga and fellow Vele executive Tshifhiwa Matodzi are in a dispute with Maanda Manyatshe over ownership of the company. Manyatshe has accused the two of looting VBS funds to fund their luxury lifestyles and of buying Vele assets using the bank’s money.
The royal family is a minority shareholder in VBS through Dyambeu Investments.
The Reserve Bank put VBS under curatorship in April after discovering the bank did not have enough funds to meet its obligations to depositors, including 10 Limpopo municipalities. A forensic investigation is being conducted by auditing firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo.
Vele was forced to settle the king’s debts after the curator hit him with a R12-million bill for the gifts he had received from the company. Madzonga said the gifts accorded with Venda culture. “As a company owned by shareholders who are subjects of the king, Vele has occasionally, and in terms of our VhaVenda culture and tradition, indeed offered some gifts to the royal house.”
He said the helicopter belonged to a Vele subsidiary and had been offered to the king for his use “as and when the need arises”.
Madzonga said they wanted to clarify that the king was never involved in the affairs of VBS. “The king has never been involved in Vele Investments nor VBS Bank, and he is not a shareholder of either of the two companies.”
The king’s office said it welcomed the clarification of his position with regards to VBS.
“The king feels vindicated and he always knew the truth would set him free,” it said.
“Vele must clean up the mess it created and confusion it brought to the people of Venda. It pains the king to see his subjects sleeping on the floor on a cold winter night to be in line to withdraw their hard-earned cash from the bank they trusted with their savings.”
The office said the king was not a businessman and could not refuse gifts his subjects presented to him, or ask how they got them.