Status Capital Building Society (SCBS) is a small office nestled in the newly built Crescent Mall situated just a stone's throw away from the Gables shopping centre in the fast growing city of Zulwini. 

It's an office you can pass without notice but “hidden” in plain sight is an organisation with big problems; lost millions, board infighting, an investor turned ´enemy´ hell bent on settling scores, political intrigue and staff now fearful for their lives.

Manned by a small team, mostly women, the SCBS has been hogging headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent times. The media has written extensively about the missing Million investments involving Escponent, Status Capital and the centrality of Dave Van Niekerk. However, most reports are coloured by who you believe or influenced in the fight to recoup the lost Millions.

The SCBC staff are now mistrustful of the media as they believe most are paid to drive certain narratives and have grown almost paranoid as they feel they are fighting battles from a slew of players.

The SCBS staff believe their troubles started when money from their investors disappeared and they initiated a fight to recover it from eSwatini and South Africa. From there, they allege, trouble started.

In the intervening period, some board members have resigned, Managing Director suspended, a defamatory billboard was placed at Malagwane Hill—albeit for a short while before the Zulwini Town Council took it down— and the media has been used as pawns in a dirty game of power and influence.

Volumes of detailed affidavits have been filed at the High Court where the founding investor Dave Van Niekerk has been alleged to have acted improperly in handling depositors' fees.

The affidavits, now seen by The Bridge, reveal a sophisticated and highly complex web of money moving from various companies in what the SCBS staff call fraudulent activities. But even more interesting is the fight between SCBS with their former Managing Director, Michael Mbetse.

Mbetse was suspended from the SCBS shortly after the E140 Million fall out. In May 2023 Mbetse was put on suspension in what SCBC claimed was following concerns on his leadership style. SCBS ultimately determined that termination of services was in the best interest of the warring parties.

Subsequently, the now suspended Managing Director challenged this decision at the Industrial Court, resulting in a temporary stay of the process whilst the case was pending. In March this year Mbetse budged into the SCBS offices and demanded his job back arguing that his suspension had been lifted.

A letter purporting to reinstate Mbetse had “unilaterally and unlawfully issued by board member Almon Mbingo in breach of a duly signed board resolution as well as the Rules of the Building Society” at least according to a statement issued by the SCBS shortly thereafter. It is alleged that Mbetse forcefully entered SCBS premises armed with the said letter and accompanied by security personnel.Dave Van Niekerk

He manhandled staff and tried to forcibly access the Society premises, equipment and in the process issuing suspensions to staff. In a subsequent statement, SCBS described Mbetse´s antics as part of a larger scheme of “ceaseless harassment” from former directors aimed at undermining ongoing legal processes and gaining access to sensitive information critical to those proceedings.

If this office drama is not enough, consider this; around last year residents of Zulwini woke up to a billboard enacted around Malagwane with the faces of the board members of SCBC and some defamatory allegations.

The billboard, now seen by Swazi Bridge, didn't last long as the Zulwini City council quickly took it down. SCBS on the other hand still stands on tenterhooks as the missing millions continue to haunt everyone and has led to a financial, legal, and political fall out on an array of players involved in the missing E140 Millions.

It's not missing millions,” one staff member protested to the Swazi Bridge on how we have framed the issue. “Its defrauded money. Its not like we do not know where the money went. We know where it is. It was siphoned in an unlawful manner. It's a problematic narrative the whole notion of missing money when known people clearly defrauded it,” continued the SCBS staff member who refused to be named. It is such “narratives” that has made the media an untrusted player in this fight.

Speak to SCBS investors who lost their money or SCBS staff trying to recoup it and one gets a lot of uneasiness with the media. There are constant allegations that anyone who touches this issue is handled by someone in the background, pursuing a certain narrative. But how did we get here?

Somewhere the country´s regulatory institutions we let their guard down and allowed unscrupulous individuals to manipulate processes and E140 Million was stolen and the country, SCBSC staff is left to pick the pieces.

Where it all began It’s become a familiar story, particularly on the continent. A foreign ‘investor’ comes to a country, opens up an investment company offering magical returns.

Locals invest their hard earned money and for a while get those exorbitant returns and become newly found evangelists for this new “magical money pot” and soon everyone is punting the messiah status of these new investors. Funds start being ‘invested’ in foreign vehicles and one day the money is gone. Victims in that instance are left wringing their hands in the air.

The country´s authorities are left trying to recoup what they can while many are left licking their wounds and blaming themselves. Locally, especially with reference to the Ecsponent and Status Capital cases, one name keeps popping up, Dave Van Niekerk.

Van Niekerk is a former South African cop who became a multi millionaire thanks to his early investment in small holder building society like Status Capital all across the region. But his reputation in the region is not flattering especially with allegations of malpractice in almost all of the places he has operated in.