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Manuel: Send VBS perpetrators to jail

Oct 23 2018 12:25
Marelise van der Merwe, Fin24

Those implicated in the undoing of VBS Mutual Bank must be sent to jail, former finance minister Trevor Manuel has said.

"R2bn was stolen from very poor people. The people who stole it must go to jail. It's theft from the poor and theft must be punished with jail. I will not back off from that view," he told the audience during a talk on digital finance in Africa at the University of Johannesburg on Monday evening.

The looting of the mutual bank, which was unpacked in a damning Reserve Bank report titled The Great Bank Heist, did not reflect "who we are as Africans", he said. 

SA 'ripe for innovation'

Speaking on economic inequality in SA, Manuel said financial literacy was a challenge. He praised TV stations that were trying to educate the public on avoiding debt, and financial institutions like Old Mutual that had created apps to help South Africans better manage their money.

"Financial literacy is very difficult," he said. The former finance minister is currently serving as one of President Cyril Ramaphosa's four investment envoys, who have been tasked with selling SA to international investors. 

Human beings, rich and poor, struggled with a desire for "instant gratification", he said, adding that South Africans also faced a large number of "strange things that are peddled", he added. "This means the gradient to deal with financial literacy is much steeper."

However, Manuel said the country was "ripe for innovation" if large businesses could successfully start catering to more diverse markets.

"Indigenisation" was essential to revamp South Africa's ailing economy, he said, adding there was a tendency for many businesses to "prepare products for middle-class white people in South Africa".

"They have now extended the same products to middle-class black people, but they have not engaged with what the alternatives are. It's an area ripe for innovation."

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