Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement File photo / Werner Beukes
PRETORIA - The Gauteng High Court, on Monday gagged UDM leader Bantu Holomisa from allegedly badmouthing BEE company, the Lebashe Investment Group,  and some of its top officials, including former Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi.

This followed allegations by Holomisa that the individuals and companies, which also include Harith General Partners and Harith Fund Managers (of which Moleketi is the chairman), could be involved in Public Investment Corporation (PIC) corruption.

The companies and individual business people turned to court to get an urgent interdict against Holomisa and his party, the United Democratic Front (UDM) to stop them from defaming the applicants in publications, broadcasts or on social media. 

Judge Vivian Tlhapi did grant the interdict, but she said she will later offer her reasons for her ruling.

The applicants turned to court after Holomisa wrote a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa last month on the letterhead of the UDM, with the heading “Unmasking Harith and Lebashe’s alleged fleecing of the Public Investment Corporation.” 

The letter was also published on the UDM’s website as well as on Holomisa’s Twitter account, where he refers to the alleged “PIC scandal.” 

Holomisa and his party, according to the order, has three days to remove the postings from social media.

Lebashe chief investment officer Warren Wheatley, said in papers before court that the letter to the president was intended to mean that the applicants are unlawfully and intentionally engaged in a number of schemes, fraud and conspiracies with the result that funds from the PIC are being misappropriated by them.

He said the letter is further to mean that innocent members of the public whose money are invested in the PIC are the victims of a series of thefts perpetrated by the applicants on a grand scale.

“So grand, in fact, that it rivals and indeed exceeds the bounds of the Gupta state capture scandal of recent times,” Wheatley said.

He said the majority of the allegations made in the letter by Holomisa “are plainly false.” 

Holomisa, in the letter, called on President Ramaphosa  to expand the terms of reference of Justice Raymond Zondo’s inquiry into state capture, to also urgently investigate the PIC.

In his letter, Holomisa said the companies and people (the applicants in this case) all have links  - past and present, directly or indirectly, with the PIC. 

“It makes for uncomfortable reading when one considers the possibility of a very complicated and opaque scheme that will put at risk a government employee’s pension  fund,” Holomisa stated in the letter. 

Holomisa, in his court papers, said he stated this in reference to the links of Moleketi  with the PIC. 

He said the UDM contends that the structure, the flow of funds and the respective roles of the personalities are enough to create the perception that the funds of the PIC have been used in a manner that is against the Public Investment Corporation Act (PFMA) and the Constitution.

“This must be investigated properly.” Holomis said where corruption is suspected, it must be exposed publicly.

Wheatley, meanwhile stated that the harm they are facing regarding Holomisa’s claims against them, is irreparable. He said if Holomisa and the UDM wanted to pursue their claims, they should do it in a proper, respectful and proper manner which does not jeopardise the applicants’ dignity and reputation.

Business Report reached out to the PIC for comment. 

 Deon Botha, Head of Corporate Affairs, said:

“Although the PIC is not a party to these legal proceedings, the PIC welcomes the High Court judgment. This institution and its CEO have been the subjects of a prolonged, unjustified and malicious public campaign by the UDM and its leader for what can only be described as inexplicable, yet sinister motives to intentionally cause public confusion and tarnish the PIC’s reputation. Our judicial system and the courts remain the last vanguard, where facts can be determined objectively and the PIC looks forward to studying the full judgment when it becomes available.”