PIC CEO Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
PIC CEO Dan Matjila. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Considering that so many column inches in the media have been dedicated to questioning my integrity and competence as CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), I feel compelled to respond to what I regard as unsubstantiated, malicious and spurious allegations being made against me.

Having spent many years working in investment management, my professional career has mostly been defined by two factors: logic and reason. Therefore, in defending my name, please allow me to take a dispassionate, logical and reasoned view of the allegations being made against me.

I want to begin by stating what some media publications have been remiss in mentioning the undeniably successful performance of the PIC over the period that I have been at the helm. Performance highlights for the financial year ended March 2018 include:  

  • Growth in assets under management to R2.083-trillion.
  • PIC profit in 2018 of R417m.
  • Returns on investments over the past 10 years for the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) of 10.25%.
  • Returns on investments during the previous 10 years for the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) of 9.23%.

Moreover, under my leadership, the PIC has consistently achieved clean audits — a rare phenomenon in the public sector. To add context to what we do at the PIC, the GEPF makes up 87.12% of the funds the PIC manages. Other clients include the UIF, Compensation Commissioner Fund (CC), Compensation Commissioner Pension Fund (CP), and Associated Institutions Pension Fund (AIPF).

Some of the reports carried in the media seem to  infer that I — and I alone — determine which companies the PIC invests in or grants loans to. And that I personally manage the assets within the PIC’s portfolio. This is plainly irrational.

The PIC has established stringent investment management and approval processes, which involve several investment professionals and committees. Governance regarding risk management within the PIC is a stringent process that complies with regulatory requirements and best global and industry practices. In addition to ensuring that the legislation, regulations, policies and best-practice standards are all met, the risk and  compliance division ensures portfolio managers manage their investment portfolios to the benefit of clients.

Moreover, some media reports have implied that the PIC invests as it pleases. Again, a gross inaccuracy. We operate within the mandates granted to us by our clients, which prescribe strict parameters from which we never deviate.

Unlisted investments

Let me start with the assertion that I have been reckless by investing R70bn in unlisted companies, the implication being that loans have been granted to companies that were irregular and thus under- or non-performing.

First, while delivering healthy financial returns on our investments is critical, contributing to the county’s broader socio-economic development is also part and parcel of the PIC’s mandate. Through investments made in companies owned by black entrepreneurs, the overarching theme for our unlisted investments is transformation and inclusive growth. Our focus in this regard, therefore, has been to invest in sectors that have the potential to encourage employment and development, while generating the requisite financial returns.

These sectors have included energy, healthcare and affordable housing and student accommodation. The results of our efforts during my tenure as CEO include, among other things:

  • As many as 152,226 jobs created and sustained.
  • The construction of 22 new hospitals, which supplied an additional 3,049 beds for our public health system.
  • Some 45,349 affordable houses constructed, as well as 11,900 student accommodation facilities.
  • Support and finance made available to 785 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
As for my name being linked to the debacle that is VBS, this has to be the lowest of the low in terms of allegations. The mere suggestion that I would accept a bribe — R5m in cash — is abhorrent to me

The multiplier effect of all our unlisted investments concerning future development? Incalculable. 

At the PIC we also practise what we preach. Since 2007, we have led the way with transformation in asset management. Today, black asset managers are responsible for the management of more than R100bn of assets from the PIC.

I’m proud to say that transformation is also evident throughout the PIC.

The almost 400 employees at the corporation fully represent the diverse demographics of SA, with the majority young people who graduated from the country’s previously marginalised universities.

Steinhoff

Let me now move to another contentious issue, the losses incurred through our investment to Steinhoff. Yes, they were significant and deeply regrettable. However, in defence of the allegation of ineptitude with regard to our exposure in Steinhoff from those who seem to have 20-20 vision in hindsight, the question posed should not be, “Why was the PIC duped by Steinhoff?”, but rather, “Who wasn’t duped by Steinhoff?”

As a retail group with a global presence, Steinhoff was considered a sound investment and a darling of the JSE, as well as various stock exchanges around the world. However, the fact remains that our exposure to Steinhoff represented less than 1% of the PIC’s assets under management, or one of more than 300 securities in the PIC portfolio, so the loss was thoroughly cushioned. Most importantly, Steinhoff was a constituent in the index the PIC tracks in line with its investment mandate.

VBS

As for my name being linked to the debacle that is VBS, this has to be the lowest of the low in terms of allegations. The mere suggestion that I would accept a bribe — R5m in cash — is abhorrent to me. This was the allegation made by one VBS executive to another, before being relayed to advocate Terry Motau SC, who, along with Werksmans Attorneys, authored the Great Bank Heist report on VBS.

Motau is on record as stating that he “cannot make a definitive finding against me and that it warrants investigation”. I welcome any investigation regarding this allegation, which I consider to be a classic case of hearsay based on evidence of two people who, according to the report, are heavily implicated in malfeasance at VBS.

I also resolutely stand by my previous statement to the press in which I stated: “I emphatically reject any suggestion that I may have received R5m to facilitate further funding for VBS Mutual Bank. The portfolio management committee of the PIC turned down an application to put more money into VBS Mutual Bank two days before VBS was placed under curatorship.”

Nepotism

Another allegation made against me is one of nepotism —according to some unknown (and I suspect disgruntled) whistle-blower at the PIC. He or she has been circulating anonymous e-mails, which imply that I used my position to arrange employment at the PIC for my son irregularly.

Not only is this utterly devoid of truth, it is malicious, spiteful and asinine. Yes, there is a gentleman with the surname of Matjila who was appointed as a manager of a canteen at the office park  the PIC once occupied with other corporates. However, the gentleman in question is not my son, and he is not related to me in any way.

The spuriousness of this allegation is such that if we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, it would mean that no-one with the surname of Kganyago can be employed at the Reserve Bank. Also, no one with the surname of Maseko can ever be hired by Telkom. It’s an allegation so deficient in logic that it’s laughable. 

Many agendas

The accusation that I advanced loans to a woman with whom I was allegedly romantically involved has already been debunked through legitimate investigative processes.

First, it saddens me greatly that a black businesswoman, Pretty Louw, who was seeking investment for her company, would have certain people immediately jump to the cynical, sexist and sensationalised conclusion that sexual favours played a role in granting her the financial assistance she sought. These allegations are deeply insulting to the lady in question, and to myself as a dedicated husband and father.

Second, it was repeatedly mentioned as part of this disproven allegation that I was pressured by the then intelligence minister, David Mahlobo, to invest in Louw’s company. As the PIC CEO I have, on countless occasions, been approached by many people of influence — bankers, financiers, business people and politicians across the political spectrum — with requests to invest in various companies.

However, as very few of these recommendations have shown any merit from an investment point of view, or met our stringent compliance practices, the majority have not been considered by the PIC.

Managing the expectations of politicians and people of influence is a fine line that I continually have to negotiate — a tightrope if you will. Therefore, it is inevitable and logical that some individuals who have received a negative response to their suggestion would harbour disgruntlement and even enmity towards me.

Yes, there is a gentleman with the surname of Matjila who was appointed as a manager of a canteen at the office park  the PIC once occupied with other corporates. However, the gentleman in question is not my son, and he is not related to me in any way

I wish to categorically state that I have never been partisan nor leaned towards any faction of a political party where it concerns my work. The only masters I serve are the 1,273,125 active members of the GEPF and the 450,322 pensioners and beneficiaries who, after a lifetime of toil, deserve a secure, prosperous and dignified retirement for the rest of their lives.

I am equally indebted to members, workers and employers who continue to contribute towards the UIF, CC and CP, as well as other clients who expect nothing more than a return on their investments.

Competence

The PIC’s ability to deliver returns on the investments under my leadership has also been questioned. Please forgive my immodesty here, but if I am lacking regarding competence, or if my performance has in any way been under par, why is it that, as recently as 2016, I and the PIC have received accolades, such as:

  • CEM, a global benchmarking company, rated the PIC one of the best asset managers that has given the GEPF positive returns at a very low cost.
  • Responsible Investor: commendation for the Best Responsible Investing Report by an Asset Manager of Large Funds.
  • European Magazine Awards: Best SOE — Africa
  • European Magazine Awards: Best Corporate Governance 
  • South African Business Leadership Awards: Africa Industry Personality of The Year.
  • European Magazine Awards: Asset Management Firm of the Year — SA.

Up to this point, I have spent 15 years at the PIC, first as chief investment officer for nine years, and four years as CEO. During my latter position I have had the honour of working alongside three deputy finance ministers who were appointed chairpersons of the PIC: Nhlanhla Nene, Mcebisi Jonas, Sifiso Buthelezi, and the current chair, Mondli Gungubele. I am grateful for their assistance and support over the last four years.

I also would like to thank all  dedicated and committed employees at the PIC. Their dedication, diligence and commitment to serving our clients, who are our primary concern, is an inspiration to me. I want to thank my family and friends who have stood by me and who continue to support me with so much faith and conviction during these trying times.

Finally, I am greatly encouraged that the South African legal system, in its inexorable quest for justice, has zero countenance for gossip, innuendo and hearsay. Also, I am eternally grateful that the McCarthy-esque assertions that have been aimed at me — a rumour here, a whisper there, anonymous text messages and e-mails — will never be deciding factors in the challenges that I face.

I greatly welcome the commission of inquiry as instituted by President Cyril Ramaphosa, and believe it will present the PIC with a proper opportunity to present facts about its corporate governance standards, operations and investment decisions to restore public and shareholder confidence in the institution. 

I am 100% confident the stability and security of the PIC will continue unabated.

• Matjila is PIC CEO.