CAPE TOWN – The Commission of Inquiry into alleged improprieties at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), heard on Monday, how evidence leader Advocate Jannie Lubbe’s legal team was reported to the board of the PIC for acting improperly with regard to the taking of statements from potential witnesses.
This was during the testimony of suspended acting chief executive and chief investment officer, Matshepo More, who appeared before the commission led by retired Judge Lex Mpati, assisted by Gill Marcus and Emanuel Lediga.
More submitted that Advocate Lubbe alleged that his team had experienced a marked reluctance by witnesses to assist the commission because of a report she and Lindiwe Dlamini, the acting executive head of legal, submitted to the PIC Board.
“On 8 March 2019 … Dlamini and I reported to the board of directors of the PIC that there were some staff members who indicated that the investigators of the commission requested them to provide statements in MS Word and that they were not comfortable with this request,” said More.
This claim by More, under some questioning from the visibly irritated evidence leader, was put into context to explain that it was never the intention of Lubbe’s investigations team to tamper with the evidence, as feared by the potential witnesses.
The suspended acting CEO told the commission that some staff members indicated that they were incurring legal costs, as a result of them having to seek legal assistance in preparing their statements for the commission.
“I am aware that several other employees harboured the same concern but were reluctant to make the request formally.”
“In order to address these concerns, of the staff members, we made a proposal to the meeting of the board on March 8, 2019, to the effect that the PIC should appoint an external independent legal firm to assist employees on a voluntary basis in preparing their statements to the Commission. The Board approved this proposal,” explained More.
More also said that Alvin Edgar Schiel, a development manager in the property division of the PIC, made a statement during his testimony in March to the effect that: “there are rumours that individuals who have been called to give evidence before the evidence leader, Adv Lubbe, are then summoned to account for this on the seventh floor” and that, “whether real or not, the rumour in itself is intimidating for most”.
“It is to be noted from this extract that Advocate Lubbe, among others, informs the Commission that “the Board were informed that the evidence leaders ask potential witnesses to bring their statements in the word format so that the evidence leaders can chop and change,” she said.
The suspended acting CEO revealed how advocate Lubbe, back in February, asked to see her privately and at that meeting offered her “fatherly advice” on how to deal with her controversial suspension when engaging with the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni.
“In the private meeting, he said to me he is providing fatherly advice and that he is recommending that if I have a good relationship with the Minister of Finance, I should ask that I be placed on special leave.
“I then highlighted to advocate Lubbe what would be the basis of me going to the minister and asking if I should be placed on special leave? Advocate Lubbe then highlighted to me that there are various allegations that have come before him regarding my involvement.
“I requested that I be given those allegations and take that into consideration. Advocate Lubbe highlighted to me that he is just providing ‘fatherly advice’. I said to him I note his ‘fatherly advice’ but until I have been put forth with allegations directly, I will then assess that,” she said.
More has vehemently denied that she has done anything to interfere with the board and the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry.
“I categorically deny that I have done anything that interfered with or has the effect of interfering with the work of the Commission,” said More.
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