The favourite line of fraudsters and tax cheats is that it’s victimless crime – just ask the State Capture players. But scratch this thinnest of veneers and it is easy to identify real-life damage to the poorest of the poor. The victims of the VBS collapse had their lives ruined – we went searching for them.
Thohoyandou is a hive of activity: in the town centre, hawkers chat to each other by the side of the road, and crowds of people go about their business.
It appears to be a normal South African town. There are many litter-strewn dirt roads with potholes and no streetlights. Children go to school, taxi marshals call for passengers and young people huddle in corners, laughing.
But everybody in Thohoyandou is keeping a big secret. The Venda Building Society (VBS) is the elephant in the room. Fear is in the air, and nobody wants to talk about it.
At Tshakuma Market, a 24-hour fruit and vegetable market, the words “VBS” raise much suspicion. Many of the hawkers simply avert their eyes, others claim to have never banked with VBS.
An elderly woman at Tshakuma market says it’s too painful to talk about VBS.