Matjila fights for his sur­vival as PIC CEO

• Faces al­le­ga­tion of fund­ing ‘girl­friend’s’ busi­ness • Board of di­rec­tors meets on Fri­day

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Carol Pa­ton Deputy Ed­i­tor

Pub­lic In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PIC) CEO Dan Matjila is fight­ing for his fu­ture and must on Fri­day an­swer al­le­ga­tions made to the board of di­rec­tors that he used funds re­served for cor­po­rate so­cial in­vest­ment to fund the busi­ness of a girl­friend.

He is also fac­ing al­le­ga­tions sent to the board in a let­ter from a staff mem­ber that he ir­reg­u­larly raised salaries of ex­ec­u­tives and that to­gether with chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Mat­shepo More ran the or­gan­i­sa­tion capri­ciously.

Matjila stren­u­ously de­nies the claims and in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day said that he would re­fute them at a spe­cial board meet­ing on Fri­day. How­ever, if he is un­suc­cess­ful in per­suad­ing the board he could face a foren­sic in­quiry.

The PIC, which among other gov­ern­ment funds man­ages the Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees Pen­sion Fund, is the big­gest in­vestor in the econ­omy with R1.7-tril­lion in as­sets. It con­stantly faces in­tense lob­by­ing from pri­vate sec­tor in­ter­ests, of­ten with strong po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, to fund pri­vate busi­ness deals.

The board is ap­pointed by the min­is­ter of fi­nance. Of the 10 in­de­pen­dent nonex­ec­u­tive mem­bers, three were ap­pointed by the for­mer min­is­ter of fi­nance, Pravin Gord­han, in 2014 and reap­pointed in 2017. Five of the di­rec­tors were ap­pointed by for­mer min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba has ap­pointed two new di­rec­tors: deputy fi­nance min­is­ter Sfiso Buthelezi as chair and busi­ness­man Xolani Mkhwanazi as his deputy.

Matjila said he had re­ceived a let­ter from Mkhwanazi last week, ask­ing him to pro­vide his re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions made in writ­ing. Matjila said in the in­ter­view that he had met

the woman re­ferred to and that he had turned down two of her projects in the past. The PIC had sup­ported a third project by Mo­bile Spe­cialised Tech­nolo­gies, which pro­vides mo­bile health and ed­u­ca­tion train­ing units, in which she was in­volved as a sales agent and not a share­holder. The PIC spon­sored one mo­bile unit to the value of R5m as a cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity project and had ex­tended the com­pany a com­mer­cial loan of R21m for ex­pan­sion.

Matjila said that the salary ad­just­ments of ex­ec­u­tives had been to bring them in line with oth­ers in the as­set man­age­ment in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to an in­de­pen­dent bench­mark­ing in­quiry, and had been done with min­is­te­rial ap­proval.

The Star news­pa­per re­ported on Thurs­day that the al­le­ga­tions against Matjila were part of a Gupta plot to take over the PIC.

The re­port also said Buthelezi and Mkhwanazi planned to re­turn dis­graced Eskom boss Brian Molefe to the PIC. Molefe was head of the PIC be­fore Matjila was ap­pointed in 2014.

The claim of a Gupta plot is un­ver­i­fied, with some ev­i­dence seen by the Busi­ness Day that it is be­ing used as ruse to stir up pub­lic sym­pa­thy for Matjila.

It is none­the­less clear that the board be­lieves that Matjila has a case to an­swer.

On Thurs­day, Buthelezi said the al­le­ga­tion of a plot to oust Matjila was “un­founded, base­less and [was] caus­ing un­nec­es­sary panic over an in­ter­nal mat­ter at the PIC. There are no pre­con­ceived plans what­so­ever to re­move Dr Matjila. The PIC board has in­deed called for a meet­ing on Fri­day with the CEO, but this is to dis­cuss and get clar­i­fi­ca­tion from him on in­ter­nal mat­ters,” he said.

The PIC board also is­sued a state­ment on Thurs­day, say­ing it took ex­cep­tion to the claim that its di­rec­tors had been cap­tured by the Gupta fam­ily and were be­ing used to re­move Matjila.

“These ar­ti­cles of­fer no ev­i­dence of any of the di­rec­tors or the board as a whole be­ing linked to the Gupta fam­ily, [and] can only be meant to taint the im­age of the PIC board. We chal­lenge the me­dia to pro­vide us with ev­i­dence that links any of the mem­bers of the PIC board with the Gupta fam­ily,” it said.

As the rumours of dis­quiet in the PIC gained trac­tion, sev­eral lob­by­ists ex­pressed con­cern about Matjila’s po­si­tion.

As well as Thurs­day’s re­port in the Star, an ar­ti­cle prais­ing Matjila as a gift to the con­ti­nent ap­peared in Busi­ness Re­port on Wed­nes­day, also owned by In­de­pen­dent News­pa­pers.

With Matjila as chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer, the PIC in­vested R888m in the pur­chase of the me­dia group by Iqbal Survé in 2013. Of the R888m, 70% sat on the bal­ance sheet of In­de­pen­dent News­pa­pers in var­i­ous in­stru­ments, while 30% was a di­rect loan to Survé’s con­sor­tium, Sekun­jalo.

The EFF, trade fed­er­a­tion Cosatu and its af­fil­i­ate the South African Demo­cratic Teach­ers Union all is­sued state­ments , say­ing, “hands off” Matjila.

/AFP (See Page 3)

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