Lex Mpati. Picture: SUPPLIED.
Lex Mpati. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Witnesses who gave testimony before the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) have been receiving death threats. 

On Thursday, the commission said it had received an anonymous SMS revealing that the threats had been made to individuals who had already given evidence and those who had agreed to testify at the upcoming public hearings. 

The matter has been reported to police.

“The [SA Police Service] has commenced with the urgent investigations of these threats in order to identify and take the necessary steps against the person(s) who have made these threats, as well as identifying the sender of these anonymous messages,” the commission said. 

The PIC manages more than R2-trillion in assets on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and other social security funds such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and the Compensation Fund.

It is currently the subject of an inquiry, led by retired judge Lex Mpati, into the asset manager’s governance. The PIC has been embroiled in numerous controversies that include allegations of corruption against four of its directors, including deputy finance minister and chair Mondli Gungubele.

Earlier this month, the entire PIC board of non-executive directors wrote to finance minister Tito Mboweni and asked to be relieved of their duties. The board, however, is remaining in place until Mboweni makes the new appointments.

The inquiry is dealing with an e-mail by a purported whistle-blower that made a number of allegations about deals that have implicated Gungubele and board members Dudu Hlatshwayo and Sibusisiwe Zulu.

It has also heard testimony from suspended PIC assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie, who alleged a number of irregularities in the process leading up to it subscribing for R4.3bn of shares in Ayo Technology Solutions.

The commission said on Thursday that it could not release the names of those who had received death threats, as it would not want to jeopardise the investigations. “These threats have had a negative impact on the willingness of witnesses to come forward,” it said.

The commission urged anyone who received similar threats to inform it and law enforcement agencies so they can adequately deal with it. The inquiry is expected to hold its second round of public hearings on February 25.

The commission is reportedly compiling an interim report that is expected to be handed to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday. 

A bill aiming to strengthen the corporate governance, accountability and transparency of the PIC was adopted by parliament’s finance committee on Tuesday and will be debated in the National Assembly next week.

After approval by the National Assembly, the Public Investment Corporation Amendment Bill will be referred to the National Council of Provinces.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za