PIC Commission biased – letter shows evidence leader targeting black companies
CAPE TOWN – A leaked letter, written by suspended acting Public Investment Corporation (PIC) CEO, Matshepo More, has revealed how Advocate Jannie Lubbe, the evidence leader of the PIC Commission of Inquiry (under retired Judge Lex Mpati), had instructed her and the rest of the board, senior management and staff at the asset manager, to provide detailed information specifically related to just nine groups of companies.
This is despite there being many more companies that the PIC has dealt with, during the period set out in the terms of reference for the Inquiry, that have cost the asset manager billions of rand in losses. Those missing from the list in the letter include the likes of EOH, Steinhoff, Ascendis Health and Kilimanjaro Capital.
Advocate Lubbe instructed the PIC to focus on, constitute a much lower value – about R22 billion in total – when compared with the more than R100bn that the PIC has lost to several other companies.
In the letter, sent out earlier this year, More told staff that Lubbe had requested detailed information on Ayo Technology, Erin Energy, Independent Media, Lancaster, MST, Sagamartha, S&S Refineries, Tosaco and VBS Mutual Bank.
What is glaringly obvious, is the omission of, among others, Lawrence Muladzi’s, Kilimanjaro and Ascendis.
The PIC Commission of Inquiry, as well as the dismissal of the PIC board, was largely based on emails sent by whistleblower James Noko who implicated a powerful triad operating within Africa's largest asset manager.
Part of that triad, as alleged by Noko, was Sibusisiwe Zulu who is Mulaudzi's live-in lover. Mulaudzi owns Kilimanjaro and has a large interest in Ascendis.
Although some of these transactions have been addressed with some of the executives from Sekunjalo and financial services group Lebashe Investments who have provided testimony at the PIC Commission, other conglomerates such as Steinhoff International, Ascendis and EOH, where the PIC has lost over R100bn, have yet to be called in or subpoenaed to testify. This is despite there being overwhelming evidence – as shared with the market – of financial transgressions, where some auditing firms, have even come under fire.
In the letter, More informs PIC employees that Lubbe “will start with initial meetings with the PIC Board members, management and staff to familiarise himself with the PIC.”
Others monitoring the developments within the PIC said the deliberate omission of businesses and others such as, Group 5, MTN Nigeria and Redefine, from the evidence leader’s list, may be an indication that there could be a pre-determined outcome as to what he is hoping to achieve.
Professor Boitumelo Senokoane, an associate professor at Unisa said the focus on Sekunjalo associated companies was strange and asked why not broaden the net wider, as it looks like the commission was designed to attack black businesses and executives.
Research conducted by Independent Media into the PIC Commission leading up to 29 May 2019, show that black-owned Sekunjalo Group companies were mentioned 3.3 times more often during the Mpati commission, compared with other companies that are also subject of the Inquiry.
AYO Technology Solutions had 1 061 mentions at the commission whereas the average number of times other companies being investigated were only 94.1. This equated to AYO being mentioned 11.3 times more often than others – a stunning 88.7 percent more!
Phaphano Phasha, the founder and director of the lobby group and NGO the Anti-Poverty Forum said her organisation has been following the developments at the asset manager very closely and is considering legal action against the PIC.
She also alleged that the Mpati commission was initiated to fight corporate battles and had not functioned in the interests of ordinary workers.
“If the Commission was in pursuit of justice, surely all companies that benefitted from the PIC would have been investigated, especially those found wanting. Several people including politicians who have had access to the PIC are not there. It's clear that this has been centred around pushing out a certain agenda,” she said.
Phasha was of the view that the biggest discrepancy at the PIC is the asset management company overseeing the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), as it primarily controls how the PIC will invest its money.
“If you look at the people running this, you will find that it is the same people whose companies have investments with the PIC. This industry is not yet completely open for black asset management companies or black-owned companies for that matter, to conduct their business. I also expect unions to be the first line of defence for workers. If we had the necessary funds, we would take the PIC to court in order to compel it to act in the interests of workers because, at the end of the day, our own government makes it easier for white corporates to access these funds while it is hard for black players to come in. Until you change the face of how the PIC interacts with the monies of government employees, nothing is going to change,” she said.
Lubbe, responding to questions put to him by Independent Media gave a blanket response, saying: “All the witnesses that have come to the commission prepared their own statements personally or, with the assistance of their own lawyers. What a witness presents to the commission is the version of the witness. Questions asked by myself or the commission is to get a better understanding of the allegations in the statement and nothing more. With regard to whom I engage or consult, is privileged and confidential information.”
More could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.