JOHANNESBURG - The National Treasury has given its backing to under-fire Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Daniel Matjila, as a legal showdown between the ministry and Matjila’s detractors looms large.
In a letter addressed to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene from lawyers representing the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the UDM demanded that Matjila be suspended immediately over allegations that he had misappropriated the fund manager’s funds to his lover.
The UDM has given Nene and the PIC until today to suspend Matjila and institute an independent inquiry into allegations levelled against him. However, the National Treasury in e-mailed responses poured cold water on the UDM’s demands that Matjila be suspended pending an investigation.
“The PIC is doing very well under his (Matjila’s) leadership,” the Treasury said.
The UDM’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, said they would wait for the Treasury to reply to their demands formally before they institute legal proceedings.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he was not surprised that the Treasury had said Matjila was not going anywhere.
“One cannot be surprised at that posture. The minister might have very well been involved in the appointment of some of the people at the PIC during his stint as chairperson of the PIC,” Holomisa said.
Nene previously served as the PIC’s chairperson between 2009 and 2014, due to his role as deputy minister of finance at the time.
Matjila joined the PIC in 2003 and was promoted to chief executive in 2014. At the time, Nene described him as strategic thinker, with extensive knowledge and experience in asset management and investment.
The PIC is owned by the government, mainly through the Government Employees Pension Fund, which owns 88.2 percent of the PIC, and is among 15 entities that report to the Finance Ministry through governance arrangements that give them autonomy but also enable them to align their strategies with government policy.
Among the allegations advanced by the UDM is that Matjila arranged and facilitated through one of the entities funded by the PIC, Ascendis, to transmit funds to the tune of R300 000 for the benefit of a woman with whom he was romantically involved.
The UDM further said Matjila was instrumental in facilitating a loan of some R21 million to an entity known as Mobile Satellite Technologies in breach of PIC’s procedures.
Matjila has survived two attempts to get rid of him at the helm of Africa’s largest fund manager.
In September last year, the board cleared Matjila of allegations that he had contravened the PIC’s rules by funding the business of a person with whom he was romantically linked.
This is one of the allegations the UDM has levelled against Matjila. At that time the board said it had “full confidence in Matjila’s integrity and ability”.
The board then mandated the internal audit division of the PIC to independently review the representations made by Matjila. Lufuno Nemagovhani, the head of the internal auditors, also cleared Matjila.