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

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) plans to oppose the high court application by UDM leader Bantu Holomisa for the suspension of CEO Dan Matjila ahead of a disciplinary process.

On Wednesday, the PIC said in a lengthy response to a series of critical newspaper articles about the corporation that Holomisa’s repeated allegations of systemic corruption at the PIC were "unfortunate and lack substance", as well as being "malicious, patently false and [eminently] contestable".

Earlier in June, Holomisa brought an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria for the suspension of Matjila. He has also written to President Cyril Ramaphosa about his allegations, which relate to the claim that Matjila pressured a company in which the PIC had invested, to settle the R300,000 debt of his "girlfriend".

Matjila has denied the allegations which were investigated by the PIC board.

The asset manager, which manages about R2.1-trillion in assets on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund and other statutory funds addressed newspaper articles that questioned its investment processes, its investment decisions, and its corporate governance standards. These included its investment in VBS Mutual Bank, now under curatorship.

"The recent media focus has almost exclusively been on a small number of underperforming investments and it seems the intention is to drive a message that funds under the PIC’s management are in danger of being eroded, or that the PIC has underperformed as an asset manager. Neither is correct," the statement said.

"Journalists may disagree with the PIC’s investment decisions but they are not investment specialists. They cannot prescribe how the PIC conducts its affairs as an asset manager, particularly in light of the PIC’s investment performance.

"The PIC has generated positive returns that exceed the investment benchmarks of its clients. The PIC’s listed equity portfolio has consistently outperformed the JSE SWIX all share index and more importantly, the PIC’s clients are happy with the returns generated. The compounded annual growth rate for the PIC’s listed portfolio over the past 10 and five years has been 10.6% and 18.4% respectively, consistently outperforming the benchmarks of its clients." The GEPF portfolio for example had also grown consistently. Since March 2017, in a low growth environment, it increased 7.8% (R134bn) to R1.814-trillion.

The PIC defended its 30% investment in Harith General Partners and 46% shareholding in Harith Fund Managers. Harith was established in 2006 to raise domestic financial resources to invest in infrastructure.

"There is nothing untoward in the commercial relationship between the PIC and Harith. The Harith portfolio is performing very well," the PIC said.

It also strongly denied that it had played any role in engineering the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank.

"The PIC is an asset manager. It has no business, and indeed no investment mandate, to bail-out poorly run banks and, in particular, one that has been placed under curatorship by the South African Reserve Bank. The allegation that the PIC could have engineered the collapse of VBS is absurd. It is insidious and irrational to argue that the biggest asset manager in this country would allow a bank, one in which it itself is invested, to collapse."