Mboweni puts long-awaited interim board in place at the PIC

Mboweni puts long-awaited interim board in place at the PIC

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. Picture: ANA

This as ousted CEO Dan Matjila testifies that the merry-go-round of ministerial appointments was aimed at getting control of the R2trn ‘piggybank’.

Five months after the board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) made its abrupt en masse exit from the organisation, finance minister Tito Mboweni has appointed an interim board that will serve a period of one year.

In a statement providing no detail for this appointment, Mboweni said the interim board will be in place from this coming Friday (July 12) until July 31, 2020.

Notable appointments to the board include Maria Ramos, who until recently was Absa CEO and is a former deputy general of the National Treasury; she was tipped to take over as finance minister in the sixth administration under President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Labour represented

In line with the impending PIC Amendment Bill, Mboweni has made two appointments from labour in Ivan Fredericks, general manager of the Public Servants Association, and general secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union Zola Saphetha.

Other members include chartered accountant Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, Smile Telecoms deputy chair Irene Charnley and National Treasury chief director for liability management Tshepiso Moahloli.

Former trustee of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), the PIC’s biggest client, Bhekithemba Gamedze has also been appointed. He is joined by community health doctor Angelo David Sabelo de Bruin, economics professor Bonke Dumisa, advocate for the PGC Group Makhubalo Ndaba and chair of Dzana Investments Dr Reuel Khoza.

Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi and Pitso Moloto were reappointed to the board.

Deputy finance minister David Masondo is not on the list.

The interim board is expected to elect its own chair and deputy chair at its first sitting.

The PIC board has traditionally been chaired by the deputy finance minister, and the Amendment Bill that is awaiting Ramaphosa’s signature formalises this appointment, which has been criticised as opening up the biggest asset manager on the continent to political influence.

Political appointees

Mboweni announced the interim board shortly after former PIC CEO Dan Matjila completed his third day of testimony at the PIC commission of inquiry into issues of impropriety and governance malpractice at the organisation.

In continuing with his line of testimony, in which he presents himself as a victim, Matjila again made note of the pressure he was under from senior politicians, non-executive board members and powerful business individuals who wanted PIC money for transactions that had no investment merit.

The asset manager manages over R2 trillion in state worker pensions.

Matjila said the PIC had suffered from political influence, which started with the appointments of board directors and the chair. He referred to them as “political appointees” who served at the behest of the minister as shareholder and not in the best interests of the corporation.

The PIC and the ANC

While he mentioned that political pressure came from various parties, Matjila named the ruling party specifically for its efforts to try and get money from the institution and described how internal party politics had affected the operations of the PIC.

“My estimation, [considering] my long experience in senior management positions at the PIC, is that whenever there is change, turmoil or movement in the ANC government, there is equal pressure and movement within PIC structures,” Matjila testified.

According to the former CEO, the issues began after the 2008 resignation of former president Thabo Mbeki, who made way for former president Jacob Zuma to take reign of the ruling party.

Mbeki’s resignation, which resulted in the departure of finance minister Trevor Manuel and his deputy Jabu Moleketi, triggered a “merry-go-round” of appointments and resignations in these two positions that closely affected the PIC, said Matjila.

The finance minister and the deputy act as the shareholder of the PIC and the chairman of the board respectively. Between 2008 and 2018, when Matjila left the institution, the finance minister was prematurely changed five times, which saw three changes to the deputy minister of finance.

“I believe these [changes] are driven by the same motives – to get control of the “piggybank” that is the PIC,” said Matjila.

‘Top politician’

Matjila admitted to assisting the ANC in securing funding for the party’s annual January statement event after receiving a request from a “top politician”.

In the beginning, Matjila was not comfortable naming the individual but later revealed that the politician in question was current Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize who previously served as the ANC’s treasurer-general.

Matjila had taken Mkhize’s request and forwarded it to several businessmen including Kilimanjaro Capital’s Lawrence Mulaudzi, Sipho Mseleku from Sakhumnotho Group, and Siyanda Resources chair Lindani Mthwa, all of whom had previously receivedfunding from the PIC.

In his evidence, Matjila said the reason he passed on the request to these men was because the PIC is not allowed to get involved in funding political parties. “Then they [the top politician] said to me ‘Ask those who have been funded to see if they can assist’ – so then I relayed that message from this context,” he said.

Compliant

Assistant commissioner Gill Marcus said this created the impression that Matjila was compliant to political influence. He had also not received legal advice on the issue or raised the matter with the board.

“Why would you deem it appropriate as the head of the PIC to pass on such a request?” she asked, adding that one would presume that he would reject a request like this from anyone, even the ANC.

She referred to Mulaudzi’s earlier testimony where the businessman had said that he did not understand Matjila’s request to be an instruction, but that he was cognisant of the fact that one could not get on the wrong side of Matjila, especially as an investee company.

“To me this is a very compromising role for a CEO of the PIC,” said Marcus, adding that the ANC could have approached these companies itself, unless it wanted to use the weight of the PIC through Matjila to exert pressure on the companies to provide support.

To which Matjila replied: “Of course that’s what it means. I can accept that now”.

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