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Why Ramaphosa may have ‘done nothing’ despite knowing of VBS looting

By Eric Naki

Analysts have suggested the then deputy president was wary of scuppering his chances of being elected president last year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 10th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, 25 July 2018. Picture: ANA
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 10th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, 25 July 2018. Picture: ANA

President Cyril Ramaphosa failed the poor clients of VBS Mutual Bank by not speaking out against the looting at the bank because he was power hungry and scared to offend his boss, Jacob Zuma.

This sharp tongue-lashing came from political analyst Professor Lesiba Teffo, who said that by not speaking out, Ramaphosa did not want to jeopardise his chances of winning at the Nasrec ANC national conference to become the party’s president and, subsequently, president of the country.

Teffo said Ramaphosa, as Zuma’s deputy, knew that, had he spoken out, Zuma would have marginalised him.

The analyst was reacting to a report published yesterday by City Press newspaper which revealed Ramaphosa knew about the massive looting that took place at the bank, but failed to take action to stop it.

The paper reported that Ramaphosa, then deputy president, was informed by a major shareholder at VBS early last year that money was being stolen.

He allegedly promised to do something about the matter but then did nothing.

The Reserve Bank last week released a damning report implicating 53 individuals, including senior ANC members, in the theft of almost R2 billion from the bank.

Teffo, who has in the past often defended Ramaphosa against unfair criticism by his opponents, came out with guns blazing against the president.

He said Ramaphosa had disappointed by not emulating the likes of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan to “speak truth to power” when it became necessary.

“There are many things that President Ramaphosa could have done to stop the looting at VBS Bank if he was informed about it. But he remained quiet because he did not want to diminish his prospects to succeed Jacob Zuma.

“He could have influenced the establishment of a commission of inquiry into what was going on at VBS Bank,” Teffo said.

“He could have spoken out when the ANC 101 veterans raised their voices against Zuma and against problems in the ANC. There are people who were disappointed by his failure to say something or act at the time,” Teffo said.

The analyst said the main reason Ramaphosa remained silent was because, had he insisted on challenging Zuma, he wouldn’t have stood a chance to be nominated or elected at Nasrec.

“He could have advised Zuma to say ‘JZ here is a problem at VBS, can we at least appoint a commission?’” Teffo went on: “Indeed, where it is necessary speak out, do so.”

The likes of Gordhan, Jonas and Mentor spoke truth to power with the understanding that there could be consequences.

“They considered the fact that the country’s constitution and the national flag are more important to uphold than to defend their personal interests.”

The analyst said the VBS Bank saga was a typical example of how the rich and the politically connected could steal from the poor.

“The money of the aged and destitute was embezzled while our leaders were watching. It is better when it is the taxpayers’ money we’re talking about, but when it is the money of your poor grannies and grandpas, it’s shame on us,” Teffo said.

But another analyst, Professor Susan Booysen, said given the volatile situation in the ANC last year, Ramaphosa’s position had been difficult.

“It could be the way he handles things – to let things happen gradually and let the processes follow their course,” said Booysen. She said it could not definitively be said that Ramaphosa had done nothing about the VBS issue.

“Besides, I don’t think there was much he could have done earlier, otherwise Zuma would have found a way to circumvent his efforts,” Booysen said. The Ciziten.