Geoffrey Qhena. Picture: MARIANNE PRETORIUS/SUNDAY TIMES
Geoffrey Qhena. Picture: MARIANNE PRETORIUS/SUNDAY TIMES

The CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Geoffrey Qhena, has resigned, the company announced on Friday.

Qhena has been at the IDC for 20 years and at the helm for 13. During his tenure the IDC grew its asset base from R31bn in 2004 to R137bn in 2018.

The IDC is the government’s most important development finance institution and has played a critical role in support for private-sector companies, through financing ventures considered strategic for the economy.

Its role has been to provide loans and take investment stakes in companies deemed strategic for the economy.

Economic Development Minister Minister Ebrahim Patel said in Friday’s announcement: “During his period at the helm, the IDC made a significant shift in its mandate, to focus on the development of black industrialists and youth entrepreneurs.”

During the Zuma era the institution came under enormous political pressure to provide loans to the politically connected, in particular the Gupta family.

It was badly burned by a loan to Gupta-owned Shiva Uranium, which is now in business rescue. The corporation says it is owed R287m in debt and interest repayments.

Over the past year the number of nonperforming loans grew strongly, with the IDC reporting its highest number of impairments in five years. There were several ill-considered investments including a hotel in Uganda and investments in fertiliser company Foskor and in Scaw metals.