Nhlanhla Nene unfazed by UDM’s court threat over PIC’s Dan Matjila
PIC deputy chairman Xolani Mkhwanazi says the board would need to be shown new information to justify reopening the investigation
Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene is unfazed by a threat of court action from Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM), which wants to compel the suspension of PIC CEO Dan Matjila over allegations of corruption.
While the UDM is insisting on an independent investigation of Matjila, the Public Investment Corporation’s deputy chairman, Xolani Mkhwanazi, says nothing new has come to light to justify the board reopening its examination of the allegations.
Nene told BusinessLIVE that he would not respond to the UDM’s demands. "That’s not how we operate. We don’t act on the basis of just letters, we act on the basis of evidence and the situation at hand."
He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority in Pretoria on Monday.
On Tuesday UDM attorney Eric Mabuza said his clients were preparing to file papers in the High Court in Pretoria. "We are expecting to do it today or tomorrow."
But Mabuza declined to comment on the UDM’s argument. "You will see it in the [court] papers," he said.
Mkhwanazi told Parliament’s finance committee on Tuesday that nothing new had come to the fore to justify reopening the board’s probe.
Matjila has been accused of facilitating financial transactions for an alleged "girlfriend". The board investigated this and exonerated Matjila of any wrongdoing. However, there have been reports that its investigation did not consider all the facts.
Mkhwanazi told the finance committee that for the board to revisit the matter, it would have to be presented with new facts or be shown that it took a bad decision. This had not happened.
Mkhwanazi said the board was very concerned about the sustained negative media publicity about the PIC. Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had requested the board for clarifications, which it had provided.
The UDM is pressing ahead with court action after Nene ignored an ultimatum to respond by Thursday last week to a letter demanding Matjila’s suspension.
In the letter dated May 28, Mabuza Attorneys on behalf of the UDM wrote: "Serious allegations of misconduct have swirled around the name of Dr Dan Matjila, the chief executive officer of the Public Investment Corporation, involving gross misuse of funds under the administration of the PIC."
The attorney said the allegations included that Matjila had arranged financial assistance of about R300,000 for a company owned by a woman alleged to be his former girlfriend. This was facilitated by a company previously funded by the PIC.
In another allegation Matjila was instrumental in facilitating a loan of about R21m to a technology company. This was also allegedly in breach of PIC procedure.
The PIC, the largest asset manager in Africa, manages nearly R2-trillion in assets consisting of public-servant pensions and funds.
PIC chairman Mondli Gungubele told Business Times at the weekend that he would inquire further about the allegations at the PIC annual general meeting this Friday.
The UDM said it was unclear on what basis the board had reached the conclusion that there had been no wrongdoing.
The party said it was, however, "instructive" that recently the police and the finance minister had called for proper investigations of the allegations.
"If it is correct that Dr Matjila used his influence to secure payments for the benefits of his current or former girlfriend, that constitutes gross misconduct, deserving of a disciplinary action and possibly, dismissal from his position."
The UDM called for a credible, independent body to conduct the new investigation, saying it did not believe in the board’s credibility.
Matjila should also to be suspended to protect the integrity of the investigation.
"We request that you respond to this letter … by Thursday, May 31, failing which urgent proceedings for the relief will be brought against the minister of finance, the PIC board and Dr Matjila."
Mkhwanazi also told Parliament that, with regard to the controversial investments made by the PIC — for example in Ayo Technologies, VBS Mutual Bank and Steinhoff — the board had revisited these investments and found that there was nothing untoward about them.
Delegations, due diligence, risk management and legal processes were examined.