The Public Investment Corporation is a fractious and contentious entity. It is a massive investor, even by global standards, and dominates the JSE. Yet its political line has always been precarious. Its reason for existing was to secure the apartheid-era pensions of public servants held in the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) (which the PIC manages). They, and subsequent state workers, receive a defined-benefit pension based on years of service and salary. But fears that an ANC government might not have been able to meet that obligation meant the GEPF was endowed with assets to cover the liability. For a government running a budget deficit, it is like having a savings account and an overdraft. That doesn’t make economic sense. Of course, it doesn’t feel like that when you are a civil servant contributing 7.5% of your salary to it every month (matched by 13%-16% paid by the employer). Civil servants are mitigating their credit risk, though the liability is still borne by the ...

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