Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The drama at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) — the biggest investor on the JSE — took another twist on Thursday, when it was forced to deny speculation that CEO Dan Matjila was on his way out.

Speculation about Matjila’s future has been mounting since news two weeks ago that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had requested a report from the PIC board on allegations of corruption, which it probed and dismissed in September 2017.

The controversy about the PIC’s funding of Ayo Technology in December 2017, in which it undertook a R4.3bn private placement at a high valuation, also prompted renewed scrutiny of Matjila, who with other executives approved the deal.

The PIC has since said that it intended to review the Ayo transaction to ascertain whether all processes were followed.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Matjila would "probably" be suspended while the board looked into these matters. Adding fuel to the fire was a note by PIC management circulated to staff on Thursday in which executive head of research Sholto Dolamo was appointed acting CEO for the day, while Matjila attended hearings of the Parliament’s finance committee.

The note was circulated on social media by United Democratic Movement president Bantu Holomisa with the question: "Where is the boss?"

Late in the afternoon, the PIC dismissed as "false and malicious" media reports that Matjila was about to be suspended. "The PIC views these unsubstantiated allegations as part of a campaign to destabilise the PIC and cause harm to the institution’s reputation. The PIC would like to reiterate that Dr Matjila remains the CEO of the PIC," head of corporate affairs Deon Botha said.

During the meeting of the finance committee the PIC, supported by Nene, resisted pressure to annually disclose its listed investment portfolio on the grounds that this was market sensitive.

The committee held a public hearing on two proposed bills, which, if adopted, will strengthen the disclosure requirements of the company, which manages about R2-trillion on behalf of statutory funds such as the Government Employees Pension Fund, the Unemployment Fund and the Compensation Fund.

Both bills, proposed by the finance committee and by DA finance spokesman David Maynier, say that the PIC should disclose all its listed and unlisted investments annually.

Matjila said the PIC competed against other asset managers. It should not be forced, just because its clients were statutory funds, to disclose its investments when asset managers such as Old Mutual and Allan Gray were prohibited by the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act from doing so.

Nene said in a letter to committee chairman Yunus Carrim that he did not support the proposed disclosure by the PIC of its listed investments, "because it will entail a collation of all the listed investments, which can influence the market".

"Other investors can very easily see what the PIC’s positions and views of the market are and that is risky since the PIC is the largest investor on the JSE," he said.