PRETORIA - The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) said on Monday that it rejected allegations contained in a front page article in the Sunday Times titled ‘Lawyers demand PIC loan kickback for Zweli.
The PIC said that the article was malicious and patently false, in a statement.
The Sunday Times said that a letter of demand from a law firm in Johannesburg had theoretically exposed an alleged R4.5-million kickback for former ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and other ANC supporters.
The PIC emphatically rejects this allegation.
In written responses to questions received from the Sunday Times, the PIC said:
• Prior to approving the R210 million loan to Afric Oil, the PIC was fully informed of the intention of Pembani Oil to exit Afric Oil through the sale of its 71% shareholding to SacOil.
• The PIC had no problem with the intended exit as it did not change the fundamentals of the investment decision. SacOil is an operator in the same industry.
• SacOil and Afric Oil are both companies in which the PIC is invested - the relationship between the PIC and these companies is that of a client-shareholder relationship.
• This is no different from the PIC’s relationship with Tiso Blackstar, publishers of the Sunday Times, its CEO or any of its senior executives. There are no “close ally” relationships with anyone.
"The newspaper failed to publish these explanations but instead chose to place more reliance on allegations from anonymous sources with intimate knowledge that Minister Zweli Mkhize twisted Matjila’s arm to approve Afric Oil’s loan application.”
"This is patently false," said the asset manager.
The PIC said it had no knowledge of any “facilitation fees” that was required to be paid to any parties as part of the transaction.
The Afric Oil transaction was approved by a fund investment panel that is chaired by, and comprises of, independent non-executive directors of the PIC board. The panel is a sub-committee of the PIC Board’s Investment Committee.
The PIC’s investment processes are such that no one person, in particular the PIC CEO, is vested with all the powers to unilaterally make investment decisions.
The PIC manages the funds of all its clients within strictly prescribed investment mandates determined by its clients, is regulated by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (previously Financial Services Board), is subject to provisions the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and is audited by the Auditor General.
By today, Minister Mkhize and Afric Oil, in separate public statements, had dismissed the allegations by the Sunday Times.
The newspaper had previously committed that it would review its news-gathering and production processes to strengthen quality assurance and editorial testing for more accurate news reporting. Regrettably, in this instance, it appears there remain some concerning flaws in its editorial processes, the statement concluded.
Sunday Times Report
In the news report, Minister Mkhize was accused of helping an oil company secure a massive loan from the PIC.
In the supposed letter, dated October 2017, Mkhize is named in a claim against Afric Oil.
The letter further stated that during a meeting at Luthuli House in 2016 a loan application to the PIC “was discussed and the TG agreed to promote Afric Oil’s projects, including providing support for the facilitation of the PIC loan”.
Mkhize and others would receive a sum of R4.5-million for "fund-raising".
The PIC would loan Afric Oil R210 million.
The law firm is said to be working for a company called Zonkizizwe Investments. The company is supposedly owned by the ANC.
The facilitation fee, it seems was never paid and that its clients are now looking for their money.
Mkhize has denied all knowledge of the agreement, telling the Sunday Times: “At no point did I play a role in facilitating a loan from the PIC for a company called Afric Oil. I also have no relationship with a company called Zonkizizwe Investments.”
"It attempts to allege that I facilitated a loan from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). I also received questions from the Sunday Times asking if I have any relationship with Zonkizizwe Investments and whether I facilitated a PIC loan for Afric Oil.
"I made it clear that I have never facilitated such a loan and I have no relationship with Zonkizizwe. This I still maintain. I have also now learnt through the article that there are lawyers who have instituted action against certain parties wherein my name is mentioned. To date I have not seen such a lawyer’s letter nor is there any action pending against me or by me on such a matter," Mkhize said.
Hearsay, Rumour and Innuendo
The PIC said that its investment in Afric Oil originated in September 2014 with a direct equity stake of 29% worth R97 million.
In January 2017, the PIC approved a further R210 million loan for an expansion plan for the company that included growing its logistics division, the acquisition of storage facilities and the provision of working capital.
The PIC regards Afric Oil as an important emerging fuel supplier, the first black empowered entity in the petroleum industry, with the potential to create jobs and advance entrepreneurship, the statement said.
The transaction resides in the PIC’s unlisted portfolio – known as the Isibiya Fund – the details of which have publicly been available.
The Sunday Times had asserted that it had “established that Afric Oil received a R210 million loan from the PIC in February last year. But this information was disclosed.
The newspaper further alleged that “a month later, the company sold its 71% interest to SacOil, a listed independent oil and gas company whose CEO, Dr Thabo Kgogo, is a close ally of the PIC CEO Dan Matjila.”
"The newspaper failed to provide any evidence to show that Kgogo is a close ally of the PIC CEO. To its readers, it presents hearsay, rumour and innuendo as fact", the statement said.
-BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE