The real story behind the PIC report
CAPE TOWN - It has been a little more than a week since the report into impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was released.
In that time, the 995-page PIC Commission of Inquiry report has been pored over by analysts, reporters, regulators, and the public – for a number and variety of reasons.
For some, the report is a vindication of their position and for others, it spells a period to come that will include further investigation with potential criminal proceedings. For others, the report has been disappointing.
The most important outcome though, is that commissions of inquiry – of which there are several in South Africa – are mostly thorough and detailed and led by an independent judiciary who, when allowed to apply its mind, protect our fragile democracy.
To understand why a small selection of personages in SA may well find the outcome of the report hard to swallow when it comes to Sekunjalo and the companies in which Sekunjalo and its chairperson, Dr Iqbal Survé, have invested in, it is important to grasp the background that set the scene for this commission of inquiry. In 2017, a concerted campaign by Gupta-aligned individuals was launched with the aim of removing Dr Dan Matjila as CEO of the PIC. The desired outcome was to replace Matjila with a CEO who would be more in line with, and favourable to, supporting transactions that would benefit the Gupta family. This was extensively covered in the media during 2017.
Part of this campaign was the allegation that Matjila had funded an alleged girlfriend – Pretty Louw. Blatant lies, as proven by the independent forensic investigation led by advocate Geoff Budlender, who conclusively established that there were no romantic links between Matjila and Louw and that Louw also could not have influenced Matjila’s decision to invest PIC money. Strangely, this report was only made public in March last year during the PIC Commission of Inquiry. As a reminder, it was Matjila who stood firm against a takeover of the PIC by the Guptas and their allies, when the PIC board was changed. This change brought about an ironic confluence of interest between the Gupta-aligned faction and the new dawn faction, headed by former deputy minister of finance Mondli Gungubele, who was the chairperson of the PIC board. Gungubele tried to involve himself in PIC transactions, which resulted in his subsequent removal by the now Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni.
During this time, Matjila, who was justifiably angered by the PIC officials who had conspired with Gupta-aligned people to remove him, then proceeded to take action against those employees. Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement, was alerted and he then wrote a letter to the president calling for a commission of inquiry. While all of this was taking place, another battle was raging – the battle for media freedom and diversity of opinion and the desire for ownership of the country’s broadest and most influential titles that are controlled by Independent Media (IM). IM is a critical tool in the safeguarding of South Africa’s democracy and inclusion of all its peoples.
It is a coveted asset, especially for those looking to control communications. IM remains non-aligned and objective in its reporting of all matters, especially those concerning SA.
For example, despite claims to the contrary, it was IM who first took a principled stance in reporting on the Guptas, but it also did not hesitate to report on the new dawn political leadership.
This approach does not toe the party line and can be a thorn in the side of those whose intentions are not aligned with the country’s best interests. The PIC commission report has made it very clear that there were no adverse findings against Sekunjalo, its companies, or Sekunjalo’s chairman, Dr Survé. This has not, however, stopped the same media critics from continuing their story spinning.
De Wet Senekal is the executive editor of Business Report.