Gigaba allies have knives out for Dan
CEO says campaign against him is a ploy to get Zuptarite hands on its R1.9-trillion
Public Investment Corporation boss Dan Matjila believes he is in the crosshairs of powerful people who want access to the R1.9-trillion of pension money he manages on behalf of government employees.
“I’ve got the keys. They’re looking for the keys to the big safe,” Matjila says. This is after he was hauled before the PIC board last week to answer allegations against him that were leaked mysteriously after he turned down a request from SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni for a R6-billion loan to keep the bankrupt national carrier from going under.
In an astonishingly frank interview this week, Matjila told Business Times he believed there was a connection. He said several requests for transactions that did not meet the PIC’s investment criteria had been made by “politically connected people”.
He said although the majority of the board had accepted the comprehensive documentary evidence he presented, which proved his innocence of the allegations against him, the chairman and vice-chairman, both recent Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba appointments, insisted on an internal audit. This suggested very strongly that there was another agenda at work. “It tells you there’s a plan on the table to try and remove me.”
He believed that attempts to get rid of him would intensify as the ANC’s elective conference approached.
“It may be almost impossible for them to have this opportunity when the political leadership of the party has changed,” he said. “There is a lot of desperation and there is urgency to deal with this quickly.”
Public Investment Corporation CEO Dan Matjila says he is being targeted by people who want to remove him so that they can have “easier” access to the R1.9-trillion the PIC controls, mainly on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund.
He appeared before the board last week to answer allegations against him that he believes were leaked as part of a “plan” to get rid of him.
“For me the motivation is clear. To try and remove me.” Why? “I’ve got the keys. They’re looking for the keys to the big safe.”
His refusal to authorise certain transactions has upset “politically connected people”, he says.
“That’s what it is. There are lots of times where we reject transactions because they don’t meet our investment criteria. Some of those who want us to do the transactions have political connections, and it becomes very frustrating for them when we are unable to help them. They try to use political pressure, and it doesn’t work.”
Dudu Myeni furious
Four weeks ago he rejected a request for a R6-billion loan for SAA from the chairwoman, Dudu Myeni. Myeni, a close friend of President Jacob Zuma, whose now bankrupt foundation she also chairs, was reportedly furious.
Allegations against Matjila were subsequently leaked to the board.
He says he expects that efforts to remove him will increase.
“What is being said out there is that every day that I am around here is an opportunity lost for those who want these funds. And the potential changes in December — some of them are saying: ‘If we don’t deal with him, we don’t know what changes are going to happen.’
“It may be almost impossible for them to have this opportunity when the political leadership of the party has changed,” he says.
“There is a lot of desperation and there is urgency to deal with this quickly.”
He believes this is what the allegations against him are about — and the board’s insistence on pursuing them.
“To me they’re related. We have given a comprehensive response to the questions we were asked, and we just didn’t understand why the board now wants to check the completeness and correctness of our submissions.
“We have shown complete records of where the money went that they claim went to my so-called girlfriend.”
The majority of directors were satisfied with his evidence. But the chairman, Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, and the deputy chairman, Xolani Mkhwanazi, both appointed by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, insisted that the allegations be referred to an internal audit.
“When we’ve presented adequate evidence and they continue with this it tells you that there’s a plan on the table,” says Matjila.
The PIC has been linked to plans by the National Treasury to use the sale of the government’s shares in Telkom to plug a R10billion hole at SAA.
Below investment grade
Matjila says that if the PIC were approached to buy Telkom shares, it would be an investment decision and would have to fit into the parameters that its clients have set.
But he says that under his leadership the PIC will not use the funds it has been entrusted with to bail out SAA.
“We have been quite clear about that. It does not meet our investment standards. Our clients themselves have made that pronouncement that they wouldn’t allow us to put money in an asset that is below investment grade.
“If we buy Telkom we’ll be buying an asset that we believe in. If we were told to put money into an SAA type of asset we would not do that.
“It would not be appropriate to finance SAA if they have not sorted out the governance issues there, and if they don’t execute an appropriate turnaround plan. Unfortunately [for SAA] this means they have to build a number of data points to show that they are succeeding.”
If the government was able to support it “to a point where they turn it around and it becomes investment grade, we will consider it at that point. The challenge is how do they make it an investment-grade asset? There will have to be an intervention from government and that will require money.
“That money will have to be raised somewhere. But not from us, until there is clear evidence of a turnaround.” Would this include the removal of Myeni? “The governance needs to be sorted out, and for this the right leadership is critical. We expect the right governance approach to be taken at SAA.”
‘Lots of rounds before December’
He says the PIC’s position on SAA has been communicated to the finance minister, “but not officially”.
In spite of this, Gigaba told Cosatu recently that he cannot guarantee that the government will not use PIC funds to recapitalise state-owned enterprises, including SAA.
“Unfortunately SAA does not meet the criteria set by our clients,” says Matjila. “So we will not be able to invest.” The same goes for Eskom, he says.
“The minister cannot instruct the PIC to invest in a particular way.”
Matjila says although systems and processes dictate what the PIC can and cannot do with clients’ money, his position as CEO is “key”.
He says his removal from the PIC would make the capture of the PIC and the funds it controls easier, “because then you could get stuff approved that is not compliant with the mandate, or you can start fiddling with the processes and criteria to make it easier for some transactions to go through”.
He says this is why “some people” want him out of the way. Does he feel his position is vulnerable? “I would be naive to think that I’m safe, quite frankly. I feel this is only round one. There will still be lots of rounds before December, and lots more mud thrown at me.
“We still have a long way to go.”
What is being said out there is that every day that I am around here is an opportunity lost for those who want these funds Dan Matjila Public Investment Corporation CEO
PIC CEO Dan Matjila
‘I’ve got the keys. They’re looking for the keys to the big safe,’ says PIC CEO Dan Matjila.