PRETORIA – Things are set to get more interesting as we are taken further down the rabbit hole at the Sammy Marks Building as retired Judge Lex Mpati, assisted by Emmanuel Lediga and Gill Marcus, delve deeper into alleged improprieties at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
The PIC commission of inquiry last week heard some rather startling claims by witnesses who appeared before it, including claims of political interference by Sekunjalo chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé.
Survé was explicit in his testimony, placing PIC chairperson, Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele, at the helm of a movement aiming to “crush” his companies. Gungubele has indicated that he will not respond to these allegations, according to media reports.
Another interesting revelation was that former executive head of risk at the PIC, Paul Magula, may have lied to the commission under oath when he denied any wrongdoing with regard to the looting of VBS Mutual Bank.
“I have never participated in any illegal, fraudulent activities during my tenure as a VBS board member.
"Some of the things like fictitious deposits, fraudulent withdrawals, bribes that are said to have happened at the VBS I got to know about when I went before the prudent authority’s (Reserve Bank’s) forensic investigators,” said Magula during his testimony.
This was nullified by Kuben Naidoo, a deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, who told the commission that Magula had confessed to Terry Motau SC’s forensic investigators that he received about R7.6million from VBS Mutual Bank for personal gain.
Of note is that the commission also heard of claims that PIC executives were made to account for their submissions to the commission of inquiry, which led to the suspension of acting chief executive Matshepo More.
The PIC said in a statement: “Allegations pertaining to interference with the process of the Commission of Inquiry were brought to the attention of the PIC board.
"The board deliberated on the matter and concluded that to ensure free participation of staff in the Commission of Inquiry process, to place Ms Matshepo More on precautionary suspension with immediate effect.”
More is yet to give her side of the story publicly or at the commission after she was initially implicated in corruption by a whistle-blower who goes by the pseudonym of James Nogu/Noko.
Noko also implicated businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi, a beneficiary of multiple deals from Africa’s largest asset manager, who emotionally defended his love affair with PIC board member Sibusisiwe Zulu before the commission.
Zulu was also implicated by Noko, who said she was responsible for handing over R6billion to Mulaudzi’s companies.
Mulaudzi vehemently denied this before the commission, drawing the sympathy of assistant commissioner Gill Marcus, who said it is one thing to make allegations that need to be investigated and it is another thing to bring people’s personal lives into the mix.
With all these revelations being made at the commission, one is tempted to connect the dots, but it would be rather premature at this stage, considering the number of investee companies that may have lost billions of PIC investments and have not made submissions to the commission.
The PIC executives have quite a lot to tell about how these investments were made and if there is any consistency in the way various transactions of various companies are dealt with, or if there is indeed external influence in certain cases.
All we can hope for is that, with the extension granted to the commission, all implicated will appear and Justice Mpati, Marcus and Lediga, will get to the bottom of this rather intricate rabbit hole.