Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dr Dan Matjila appeared to close ranks yesterday (Tuesday) and slammed reports suggesting there was a “looting campaign” aimed at using R100 billion from the PIC to bail out struggling parastatals.
Gigaba said the “attack” on the PIC credibility was an isolated incident that needed to be nipped in the bud and “show a united face as critical stakeholders”.
Gigaba and his deputy and PIC chairperson Sfiso Buthelezi, Matjila and National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane, addressed the media in Pretoria yesterday (Tuesday).
It followed a newspaper report at the weekend, that quoted Matjila as saying certain people wanted him removed from the PIC, so as to have easier access to the nearly R2 trillion that Africa’s largest fund manager controls on behalf of government employees.
Matjila reportedly said the motivation was to try and remove him because “I’ve got the keys. They’re looking for the keys to the big safe”.
Gigaba, who admitted he was upset over the report, said there were “no attempts to dip into the pension funds of government employees for reasons that are unscrupulous”. He later said National Treasury would not “dip into the PIC funds” at all and that they would work as a united leadership to protect the assets of PIC clients.
“We will act in the best interests of their lifelong assets so that at the point of retirement they have them available to them,” the minister said.
He rallied behind Matjila saying the PIC chief executive was “concerned about the articles” which sought to impair the PIC’s credibility and cause “anxiety among pensioners”.
“There is absolutely no truth to allegations that there is a looting campaign out there that seeks to dip dirty hands into the R1.9 trillion of the PIC,” Gigaba said, adding that from time to time, people would try to “drive a wedge between us”.
He was emphatic that “to my knowledge, there is no R100 billion that we have requested” from the PIC.
Matjila, who reportedly rejected a request for a R6 billion loan for SAA from Dudu Myeni, chairperson of the cash-strapped national carrier, said the article was “distasteful, inaccurate and designed to drive a wedge between myself and the minister”.
Matjila said he had formally laid a complaint with the newspaper’s senior management, was weighing legal options to try and deal with it properly, and that he would release a statement today (Wednesday).
He claimed to enjoy good support from Gigaba, Buthelezi and the PIC board, saying: “I enjoy good support from mini, deputy minister and board of the PIC… I can assure our clients that the PIC is on solid ground, we are not disturbed by this, we are focussed on the work, they can rest assured that their money is safe.”
He declined an interview with Business Report after the briefing, saying: “I would like to stay out of the public for time being.”
At the briefing, Gigaba said he called a meeting between Treasury and PIC officials as he wanted to find out if it was true attempts were afoot to remove Matjila from the PIC, among other allegations.
“I made it clear to the board that I personally have not attempted in any possible way to get myself involved in the business of the PIC.”
Mogajane said while there had been engagements regarding the funding issues that SAA has had, at no point did “we go to Dr Matjila to say he must advance money to bailout SAA”.
Buthelezi said they rejected the allegations with contempt.
“People come up with allegations without providing an iota of evidence … As the PIC board of directors we reject suggestions there are plans being hatched somewhere to remove the CEO,” he said.
A week after the allegations against Matjila surfaced, labour federation Fedusa said it was seriously considering ditching the PIC as an investment vehicle for its 230 000 state employees members.
Fedusa general secretary Dennis George has said they were concerned the lack of good governance at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) would spill over to the PIC. He warned that pulling out of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) was one of the options they were considering in order to protect their members’ interests.
According to the PIC’s 2016 annual report, the GEPF is the largest client, with a contribution of 88.2 percent of total assets under management. Other clients include the
Unemployment Insurance Fund, Compensation Commissioner Fund, Compensation Commissioner Pension Fund and Associated Institutions Pension Fund. Former Finance Minister has called for SOEs to be cleaned up before government bailed them out.