Carol Paton Editor at Large
Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was expected to hold an urgent board meeting on Tuesday after new allegations of corruption surfaced against board member Sibusisiwe Zulu in an anonymous e-mail.

The PIC, which invests more than R2-trillion in government pension and other social funds, is the most influential investor in the economy. It is currently subject to a judicial inquiry after allegations of corruption were made against former CEO Dan Matjila.

The e-mail was sent by “James Noko” on Monday afternoon to finance minister Tito Mboweni and copied widely to others, including staff and board members of the PIC and journalists. It makes startling allegations about Zulu, who has been on the board of the PIC for several years. Among the claims are that she is romantically involved with a man who has been the beneficiary of several BEE transactions funded by the PIC.

Zulu is also an acting judge.

During her time on the board she has been an active opponent of Matjila, consistently voting against most of the board calling for resolutions to investigate Matjila. But the whistle-blowing e-mail circulated on Monday says that Zulu, who it is claimed indirectly benefited from PIC transactions, is now involved in a conspiracy with acting CEO Matshepo More and deputy finance minister Mondli Gungubele to capture the PIC.

Zulu has written to the PIC board indicating her willingness to subject herself to a full and independent investigation.

“I’ve assessed the allegations against me. While I can send a response to the board in relation to each allegation, I believe that these are of such a nature that they require an independent investigation so that they can be independently tested,” her letter said.

She has not yet responded to a request for comment.

In an unlikely coincidence the sender of the e-mail about Zulu — a person calling himself James Noko — came up in evidence at the commission of inquiry on Monday.

“James Nogu” was the original “whistle-blower” who sent the anonymous e-mails in September 2017 in which he made the original claims that Matjila was corrupt.

The two main allegations at that time were that Matjila had irregularly provided a company associated with a “girlfriend” with corporate social responsibility funds, and that he had called in a favour for the same woman with a person who had recently been the beneficiary of PIC funding. The man involved — Limpopo businessperson Laurence Mulaudzi — had provided the woman with R300,000 to pay her debts.

A forensic inquiry by advocate Geoff Budlender found that there was no evidence of a relationship between Matjila and the woman but that Matjila had inappropriately called in a favour with Mulaudzi on her behalf. This he had done at the behest of the former minister of state security, David Mahlobo.

“James Nogu” did not come forward to give evidence to Budlender, despite his attempts to encourage all whistle-blowers protection. After being silent for more than a year, Noko suddenly surfaced on Monday with a new e-mail just as his name came up at the inquiry.

The new e-mail is remarkably similar to the ones sent by Nogu in September 17. 

In evidence before the commission on Monday, forensic investigator Frans Lekubo, who had been contracted by Matjila to trace the identity of Noko, said that he had been unable to locate Noko via an e-mail trace as that required a subpoena.

He implied that Noko was a fictitious person and was either a PIC insider or acted with the help of an insider in the PIC. Pressed afterwards by journalists to disclose who he thought Noko was, he said that it was plausible that the PIC’s former head of IT security, Simphiwe Mayisela, who was fired by the PIC in 2018, could be the elusive James Noko.

In a cheeky twist, the latest e-mail from Noko, who has been elusive since September 2017, begins with the statement: “James Noko is back from the holidays.”

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