Carol Paton Writer at Large
Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The CE of the Public Investment Corporation, Dan Matjila, spied on the e-mail traffic of six of his top executives in 2017 in his bid to unmask the identity of an anonymous whistle-blower who had made allegations about him to his board and executives.

The allegations came in the form of an e-mail last September from a person purporting to be "James Nogu", which claimed that Matjila had corruptly funded a "girlfriend" with corporate social investment money.

The e-mail claimed Matjila had called in a favour for the woman, whose business was in trouble, from the head of the company the PIC had funded.

Matjila refuted the allegations to the board, which accepted his explanation. He has denied any romantic relationship with the woman. Matjila then obtained the permission of the board to investigate the source of the e-mail. He enlisted the services of BCX, which subcontracted the job to Naledi Advisory Services, a specialist in digital forensics.

In a letter to e-mail security and archiving company Mimecast, Matjila requested to be provided with four months of the e-mails of six top executives: the executive head of risk, Paul Magula; IT head Vuyokazi Menye; the head of internal audit, Lufuno Nemgovhani; two legal executives; and company secretary Bongani Mathebula.

In reply to questions on Thursday Matjila said that he had selected the six on the basis of the risk profile he thought each posed to the organisation. He said all the executives were informed of the investigation in general terms. The board had also given him the full authority to do whatever was required to get to the bottom of the matter.

Underlying Matjila’s concerns was the political context at the time of the e-mail "attack", which happened shortly after the PIC was given a new chairman in the form of then deputy minister of finance Sfiso Buthelezi as a consequence of former president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle.

The "girlfriend" allegations were widely interpreted as a crude attempt to get Matjila suspended and ultimately removed from his position.

It appears the episode triggered much suspicion and fears of sinister intentions on the part of both Matjila and staff members, particularly those who he later suspended. Although Matjila has evidence of threatening text messages that he received, he has not been able to prove any of the targeted staff members had sinister motives.

Matjila says he still intends to take further action against those he believes were involved.

Several have now left the organisation. Magula and the IT head of security Simphiwe Mayisela were dismissed after disciplinary proceedings. The PIC and Menye have agreed on a mutual parting of ways, while Mathebula remains on suspension. The legal executives and Nemgovhani are still employed at the PIC.