JOHANNESBURG – Sparks flew yesterday at the disciplinary hearing of suspended Public Investment Corporation (PIC) company secretary Bongani Mathebula after she lost two key battles at the start of the inquiry.

Mathebula lost her bid to have the hearing postponed and her attempt to have hearing chairperson Wayne Hutchinson recuse himself on allegations of impartiality also fell flat.

Mathebula has been charged with leaking confidential company documents, a charge she has denied.

In a heated exchange between Hutchinson and Mathebula’s advocate, Ashley Cook of Bridge Group, the latter came off second best as the chairperson asserted his authority.

Cook said the matter ought to have been postponed because he had not had a chance to review all the evidence presented by the employer and also charged that the hearing was not properly mandated.

This assertion was, however, rebutted by evidence leader Afzal Mosam, who accused Mathebula of playing “hide and seek”.

“What the employee is doing is hide and seek. She is not willing to subject herself to the disciplinary hearing. From the start she has threatened to take legal action to stop this hearing, yet nothing has come of that,” charged Mosam.

At the heart of allegations against Mathebula is that she leaked minutes of the meeting held in September last year to fire PIC information technology (IT) head of security, Simphiwe Mayisela. 

The PIC’s chief executive, Dan Matjila, who was at that meeting, was cleared of causing PIC money to flow, indirectly, to businesswoman Pretty Louw, who was alleged to be his girlfriend.

However, it is also alleged that the unsigned leaked minutes painted a picture that Matjila was improperly cleared by the board.

Executive for human resources Chris Pholwane, the first witness to be called, told the hearing that information from Mayisela had indicated it was Mathebula who leaked the board minutes.

“Board minutes, especially in-camera minutes, are under the custodianship of the company secretary and when they leak questions are raised.  And when Mayisela was asked at his disciplinary hearing where he got this confidential information from, he said from an employee at the PIC, which pointed the finger at Mathebula,” Pholwane said.

What broke the camel's back at the corporation was the infamous whistle-blower email sent to the entire PIC board on September last year under the pseudonym James Nogu, accusing Matjila of corruption. The National Treasury has since ordered a forensic investigation into allegations of mismanagement at the fund manager.

PIC is the largest investment manager in Africa, managing assets of more than R1.9 trillion. 

Mathebula is one of the senior managers who find themselves on the wrong side of the PIC’s policies.

Mayisela’s boss, IT executive Vuyokazi Manye, earlier this year also left the corporation as the fallout over the leaking of information at the fund manager intensified.

Mayisela, at his own disciplinary hearing earlier this year, which saw him fired, admitted to using his super-admin access to target Matjila’s electronic communications.

“I had already had an undertaking with the police to assist them in providing information around the allegations that were made there, so I had to find any information targeting the chief executive,” Mayisela testified.

Pholwane’s cross-examination will start on Wednesday.