South Africa - Pretoria - 02 April 2019. The chairman of the Sekunjalo Group Dr Iqbal Survé testifying at the PIC Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
DURBAN - Political parties agree with businessman Dr Iqbal Survé that the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) had failed to transform the economy or to unlock monopolies in the country.

Survé, executive chairman of Sekunjalo Group and a shareholder in companies including Ayo Technology Solutions and Independent Media, testified before the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the PIC in Pretoria this week.

In his testimony, Survé said the PIC’s investment strategy was racist, in favour of white-owned and controlled companies at the expense of firms started and managed by black entrepreneurs.

A number of political parties yesterday concurred with Survé. They said the PIC was anti-transformational, declared its investment decisions to be racist and accused it of running its affairs in a clandestine manner.

ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party agreed that the PIC had failed to transform the economy.

“The PIC could have done much better to grow the local economy. Their investment decisions were based on big monopoly capital or old money, yet they had an opportunity to grow SMMEs (small, medium and micro-sized enterprises).

“Going forward the PIC must assist in growing the economy and help people on the periphery of the economy to go into the mainstream.”

Legoete said the PIC must broaden the economy and make it inclusive, something it was not able to do because of poor decision-making.

“People on the periphery, black, white and coloured, were seen as high risk while those already in mainstream business were viewed as low risk. The PIC did not help us,” he said.

EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the PIC could be “categorically declared as racist”.

“That it is not trying to transform the economy, is consistent with our position. You will see the pattern if you follow the investment profile.”

Ndlozi said the PIC was not pushing to transform ownership of business and for black inclusion. “They do what many banks do to black people and yet they use black people’s pension funds. They don’t invest the PIC funds into the places where black people live.”

Narend Singh, the IFP’s chief whip in Parliament said: “For too long the PIC has been running its affairs in a clandestine manner with the public’s funds.

“The IFP wishes to express its displeasure with the terms of reference set up for the commission by President Cyril Ramaphosa. This is because the dates provided do not allow for a thorough investigation into how the PIC invested its funds prior to 2015.

“The allegations which have recently surfaced speak volumes of the lack of internal controls and financial management practices within the corporation. It’s a shame that the public’s money was not invested to benefit small and medium enterprises, but to line the pockets of a few questionable individuals. We hope the investigation into the PIC will ensure those involved in wrongdoing will face the might of the law.”

DA MP Alf Lees said transforming the economy was the PIC’s secondary mandate.

“It’s primary mandate is to ensure a necessary return for its clients. It cannot be that the secondary mandate supersedes the primary mandate.

“It is fallacious to argue that the primary mandate is transformation. The client will determine the mandate and not the PIC,” Lees said.

Survé told the commission the PIC needed to look at the fundamentals of the business that it entered into, ensuring it met stakeholder requirements, served the purpose of transforming the economy and “unlocked monopolies in our economy”.

“I don’t think the PIC takes these kinds of things seriously. We need far more people on the PIC who are smart about understanding the capital markets and its requirements to grow our economy, unlocking the balance sheets of companies that have trillions in investments and utilising that smartly in partnership with entrepreneurs.”

PIC spokesperson Sekgoela Sekgoela yesterday said they would not comment on evidence led at the commission.

Survé added that the PIC could help the country go beyond companies only creating wealth for themselves.

Emmanuel Lediga, an assistant to commissioner Justice Lex Mpati, questioned Survé on whether the investment of trade unions in his companies had led to political pressure on the PIC.

Survé said his philosophy was to empower as many people as possible, including the workers of the country, hence the participation of trade unions.

“I have met numerous times with trade unions to talk about an African digital economy, where Africans take control of their data and the economy so we can create jobs. Trade unions are important in terms of creating jobs. Through all of our companies we build social contracts with trade unions.”

Survé said this could be attributed to his background and his belief in stakeholder and inclusive capitalism.

“On that basis, people want to participate in our businesses. If they write letters to the PIC, that’s okay, but my advice to the PIC is that you should ignore that,” he said, saying it should focus on transforming the economy.