Cape Town - A last-minute switch in naming its new chairman and an equally last-minute stinging attack on the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Bill by Cosatu on Friday prompted the national assembly's finance committee to shelve consideration of the bill until August.
The committee, which had been told its new chairman would be Rhoda Joemat, readily agreed at the last minute on Rob Davies, the former chairman of the trade and industry committee, as Barbara Hogan's replacement.
But Davies, who praised Hogan for her hard work and commitment, temporarily handed over the chair to to her, as she had been chairing the sessions on the PIC Bill, about which he admitted he knew very little.
Cosatu's late submission, presented by the labour federation's parliamentary officer, Elroy Paulus, was stinging in its condemnation of the way the bill had been drafted and rushed through to parliament without adequate consultation with the parties that would be directly affected, including its members.
It was also deeply concerned that the PIC - which has more that R300 billion in assets under management, including civil service pension funds - was being raided to reduce government debt, implement ad hoc social delivery plans, make ill-advised investments in equities and misguided empowerment projects that had made huge losses, and put a new emphasis on the property market that could only benefit the rich.
Cosatu would prefer debt to be reduced by moving the state pension fund from a fully funded to a pay-as-you-go system, with all stakeholders involved in investment decisions. Instead, it was being turned into something akin to a private asset management company, which would not be to the benefit of all South Africans.
It agreed with Nicholas Biekpe, the director of the Africa Centre for Investment Analysis at the University of Stellenbosch, who told the committee earlier in the week that the private sector's "false sense of belief that it is a torchbearer of corporate governance" held no credence given recent major corporate scandals.
There was no evidence to back up claims that privatisation would result in greater efficiency if no comprehensive business plan had been presented. It was therefore not clear how a corporatised PIC could meet the government's developmental goals while removing control over its considerable resources from the state and civil society.
"Experience has shown that these funds are likely to be used mainly for profit maximisation and not in the long-term interest of public sector workers and working people in general, such as sustainable development and the creation of quality jobs," Cosatu said.
Other weak points in the bill included the lack of a cost benefit analysis and the extensive powers granted to the minister.
The committee agreed to defer further consideration of the bill until parliament reconvened in August.
Hogan said later she was content to become a backbencher again but aimed to focus her attention on issues such as poverty alleviation and consumer protection.