Matjila said the allegations that he had channelled an R21 million deal to an alleged girlfriend lacked merit and he was determined to continue his tenure at the helm of one of the largest investment managers in Africa.
“It is quite difficult to understand why these allegations are emerging now. I had already provided a full response that laid my case that the allegations against me are just lies. I undertook to provide solid proof that is irrefutable, but the special meeting was called anyway,” Matjila said.
The PIC is owned by the government, mainly through the Government Employees Pension Fund, who owns 88.2% of the PIC and is among fifteen entities that report to the Ministry of Finance through governance arrangements that give them autonomy, but also enable them to align their strategies with government policy.
Matjila joined the PIC in 2003 as its chief investment officer. He began his five-year tenure as chief executive in 2014. Former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene described him as strategic thinker, with extensive knowledge and experience in asset management and investment.
Deputy finance minister Sifiso Buthelezi, who is the chairperson of the PIC, yesterday dismissed the allegations that guns were out for Matjila as unfounded and that there were preconceived plans to remove Matjila.
“The Deputy Minister would like to put it on record that these allegations are unfounded, baseless and are causing unnecessary panic over an internal matter at the PIC. The PIC board has indeed called for a meeting on Friday with the chief executive, but this is to discuss and get clarification from him on internal matters,” the Treasury said.
Business Report’s sister newspaper, The Star, reported yesterday that moves to get rid of Matjila were triggered by the desire of the infamous Gupta family to capture the operations of the fund manager that has nearly R2 trillion of assets under its management. The Star said the Guptas wanted embattled former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe to be installed at the helm of the PIC. Molefe was at the helm of the PIC from 2003 to 2010.
Ian Cruickshanks, the chief economist at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said independence of the PIC must be the foremost consideration.
“It is critically important that the chief executive of the PIC should be free of any outside influence,” Cruickshanks said.
In a move eerily similar to events that led up to a major cabinet reshuffle earlier this year that claimed the heads of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, Matjila was also forced to cut short his business trip to the US to come to answer to the allegations at the special meeting that was initially set down as an ordinary meeting.
Buthelezi, however, did not explain what was so urgent about today’s meeting that demanded Matjila to cut short his business trip to the US.
Matjila said he was taken aback that the meeting was altered into a special meeting that needed him to immediately head back home.
“When I left on Friday I was under the impression that today’s meeting was going to be a sub-committee meeting of the board. I got to know via e-mail while in the US that this meeting has been changed into a special board meeting.
“When I was made aware that the meeting was changed to be that of a special meeting I had to abandon my plans and return to the country so I that am present at this meeting. I am confident in the quality of my work and confident that the board will agree that the allegations against me are without merit.”