Former PIC director says prolonged corruption probe was ‘agonising’

The inquiry heard on Tuesday that the lifestyle audit found ‘no indication of any criminal conduct’ by Zulu or several others named by the whistleblower, including Matjila. Picture: Moneyweb

Sibusisiwe Zulu was one of the non-executive directors of the PIC named in emails sent by infamous whistleblower James Noku in January.

A former non-executive director of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) accused of corruption by an anonymous whistleblower said her reputation has been negatively affected by the prolonged investigation into the matter.

Sibusisiwe Zulu was one of the non-executive directors of the PIC named in emails sent by infamous whistleblower James Noku, also known as James Nogu, in January 2019.

Noku accused Zulu of approving deals worth R6 billion for her romantic partner Lawrence Mulaudzi, a businessman whose dealings with the PIC have come under great scrutiny at the Mpati commission of inquiry probing issues of impropriety related to transactions and governance failures at the PIC.

According to Noku’s emails, Zulu indirectly benefitted from the transactions approved in favour of Mulaudzi and started living a “lifestyle where she splurges her ill-gotten PIC money” on a mansion and sports cars.

Former board chair and deputy finance minister Mondli Gungubele was also implicated in the emails, with Noku claiming that he had been “captured” by Zulu. The entire board resigned in the wake of the emails.

Zulu requested an investigation

Zulu told the commission that as soon as the allegations arose, she immediately called for an independent investigation.

“My instant view was that if these allegations were not dealt with independently and urgently, they had the potential of disrupting the workings of the PIC while tainting the independence of the board,” said Zulu.

This was the second batch of emails from Noku/Nogu; the first, sent in September 2018, made charges of corruption against former CEO Dan Matjila but the board cleared Matjila of any wrongdoing following an internal investigation.

Zulu said the reason she called for an independent investigation the second time around was because of the backlash the board received for its initial approach in clearing Matjila, saying it was “in her interest” to have the allegations assessed independently.

The final forensic investigation report was due to be released in March, but the investigation was handed over to the PIC commission, which was supposed to conclude its work in April but has received an extension to October.

“At a personal level, this has been an agonising period,” said Zulu.

She added that she has been subjected to “inaccurate media reports and slanderous social media posts” where she has been labelled as corrupt and having siphoned off millions in government employee pension funds.

She said anyone with a basic understanding of the PIC’s processes would know that the allegations against her and her colleagues were “completely illogical and balderdash”.

Zulu – and others – cleared

On Tuesday morning, evidence leader advocate Jannie Lubbe told the commission that a lifestyle audit conducted by PwC on the former directors had found no evidence of impropriety or criminal conduct by Zulu or Gungubele.

The audit, conducted by PwC director Lionel van Tonder, included background checks on the former board members, assessments of their payslips and bank statements, communication with various banking institutions and imaging of their work and personal electronic devices.

Other former directors investigated in the audit were Matjila, non-executive director Dudu Hlatshwayo, and suspended chief financial officer Matshepo More.

“In general, the finding was that there was no indication of any criminal conduct regarding any of these individuals and he could not find any substance to the allegations contained in the Noku emails,” Lubbe told the commission.

The report will not be made public due to the sensitivity and confidential nature of the information it contains.

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