OPINION: Good move Mr President
JOHANNESBURG – The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) welcomes the appointment by President Cyril Ramaphosa of a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and supports the six-month period to complete the investigation.
Fedusa is concerned about persistent political intrusion in the operations of the PIC by politicians, who advance questionable allegations against the biggest asset manager in Africa with a combined portfolio of more than R2 trillion in government pension and other funds.
Fedusa has called for the appointment of independent non-executive worker directors to serve on the PIC Board in order to strengthen corporate governance, to promote representation from organised labour and to combat any forms of impropriety and attempts to wrongfully influence investment decisions.
The terms of reference of the commission mandate the former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Lex Mpati, the former Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus, and veteran asset manager Emmanuel Lediga to investigate whether any alleged impropriety in investment decisions by the PIC in media reports in 2017 and 2018 contravened any legislation.
Fedusa remains concerned that repeated allegations by anonymous individuals posing as "whistle-blowers" regularly find traction in certain media organisations, including claims of a romantic relationship between Dr Daniel Matjila, the PIC chief executive, and Pretty Louw, a businesswoman.
An investigation by Advocate Geoff Budlender SC, that was commissioned by the PIC board earlier this year, has now found that no evidence could be placed before it to prove this, and a multitude of other allegations, against Matjila.
Days are numbered
Yet, the media campaign rolls on with headlines like “Matjila’s days are numbered as anti-corruption drive heats up ‘PIC has been named three times in ten days in politically tainted scandals’."
Another headline on July 23, 2018, stated that “Nene to announce Matjila’s fate before the weekend”. A further interesting headline, published in the Sunday Times on July 27, was “PIC staff want bosses suspended to be free to speak out on corruption”.
These headlines clearly feed off internal, confidential company information, including the deliberations of the PIC board that is selectively leaked to journalists who appear to be willing recipients and participants in a campaign to destabilise the PIC.
The methodology of using a media campaign to introduce false or distorted information into the public domain is the same approach that was used to advance the capturing of crucial state institutions such as the Hawks, Ipid and SA Revenue Service (Sars).
We have seen how allegations of an unlawful "rogue unit" that existed in Sars are still repeated to this day, despite an overwhelming body of evidence in the public domain that shows how this was used to effectively destroy the tax-collecting agency.
International firms like KPMG were then appointed by suspended Sars commissioner Tom Moyane to investigate these allegations and to lend credibility to the unlawful rogue unit allegations.
Judge Robert Nugent’s Commission of Inquiry into Sars has now recommended that the president take steps without delay to remove Moyane as Sars commissioner and recommended that the president should take steps without delay to appoint a new commissioner of Sars.
Judge Nugent has also rejected allegations that a "rogue unit" was unlawfully established at Sars.
The first point in the terms of reference of the inquiry into the PIC focuses on the role of the media.
Whether any alleged impropriety regarding investment decisions by the PIC in media reports in 2017 and 2018 contravened any legislation, PIC policy or contractual obligations and resulted in any undue benefit for any PIC director, or employee or any associate or family member of any PIC director or employee at the time.
In view of the conduct of some journalists over this period in their reporting on the PIC, Fedusa must caution media institutions to guard against publishing distorted information and untested allegations from anonymous sources, as fact. The PIC’s role in our economy is crucial in many respects and we cannot allow the work of this important institution to be undermined for nefarious means.
Dennis George is the general secretary of Fedusa.
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