Advocate Jannie Lubbe at the PIC Commission of Inquiry. Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – The Mpati Commission of Inquiry into alleged impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) heard on Monday how its evidence leader, advocate Jannie Lubbe, called the asset manager’s suspended acting CEO, Matshepo More, to a private meeting where he provided her with “fatherly advice,” when concerns were raised about the conduct of his investigative team in the sourcing of information.

During her submission to the commission, More revealed how advocate Lubbe, back in February, had called her to a private meeting to give her “fatherly advice” on how to deal with her potential suspension when engaging with 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 was placed on precautionary suspension earlier this year after allegations surfaced that she was interfering with the investigative work of the commission. More on Monday vehemently denied that she had done anything to interfere with the board and the proceedings of the commission.

READ: PIC board suspends acting CEO Matshepo More

“I categorically deny that I have done anything that interfered with or has the effect of interfering with the work of the Commission,” she said.

The commission also heard that 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.

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, had 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 the Lubbe’s investigations team to tamper with the evidence as feared by the potential witnesses.

READ: Cosatu welcomes More’s suspension

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 concerns 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 8 March 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,” said More.

She explained that  on 8 March 2019, Lindiwe Dlamini, the acting executive head of legal and herself, reported to the board of directors of the PIC that there were some staff members who had indicated that the investigators of the commission requested them to provide statements in MS Word and, that they were not comfortable with this request.

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”.