Johannesburg - Erstwhile Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dan Matjila on Tuesday recounted how the appointment of Malusi Gigaba as finance minister in 2017 and that of his deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi, marked the beginning of the end of his career at the asset manager.
Matjila said Gigaba and Buthelezi’s appointment spelt trouble for him, as they immediately went about trying to find ways to dismiss him.
“I knew that this development was going to impact on me on a personal level - that the gloves were coming off, so to speak,” Matjila told Judge Lex Mpati’s commission of inquiry into the state-owned asset manager.
“Adding to the intrigue, I received a tip-off from a reliable source that a plan to remove me was discussed at a secret meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum around May 5, 2017.
“This I discussed with the former chairperson, Mr (Mcebisi) Jonas, and indicated to him that my intention is to resign, and I sensed that the PIC had ‘lost its innocence’ and did not see the way out and, most importantly, did not want to be party to what would be the undoing of the enormous amount of work in building the institution. Mr Jonas begged me to stay and argued that things will improve - and I stayed.”
Matjila said the ascendance of Gigaba and Buthelezi to the top echelons of the National Treasury ushered in an era of instability at the PIC.
He argued that he believed, and still holds the view, that their appointment was meant to capture the corporation.
“The agents of capture I believe were both internal and external. Externally, driven by the new Treasury leadership, and internally driven by a faction of Exco and some non-executive directors,” Matjila testified.
“It was clear to me that the PIC had been infiltrated by forces that sought to destabilise it. The catalyst of these divisions was James Nogu/Noko and the leaking of PIC’s confidential information to the media to destabilise the PIC. This culminated in my removal from the PIC.”
Nogu/Noko sent anonymous emails in September 2017 in which he made the original claims that Matjila was corrupt.
Gigaba and Buthelezi could not be immediately reached for comment.
Matjila also testified that he had withstood pressure to invest in Gupta-linked companies.
He said he and his team were put under pressure by both Trillian and Regiments to transact on some of the proposals they were doing for Transnet and Landbank.
“Around 2016/2017, Trillian approached the PIC to invest in a Transnet R6-to-R9billion private placement, and Regiments separately approached the PIC to assist in the Landbank’s balance sheet, restructuring in an amount of R10bn respectively,” Matjila said.
“We refused to support this proposal, as we did not see the need for a middleman because we have worked directly with both SOCs. It was clear to us, as it is now, that this was simply a method of fleecing public money. For this I personally suffered and still do, but I am proud of the resistance that the team put up against this onslaught.”
The commission previously heard from Transnet executives how Trillian Capital Partners was irregularly hired to facilitate syndication of banks to lend Transnet money at a cost of R93.5million. Transnet was not the only state-owned company to have significant dealings with the Gupta-linked company.
Last month, the North Gauteng High Court ordered Trillian to pay back nearly R600m it was illegally paid by embattled power producer Eskom.
Matjila is expected to continue his testimony today and to be cross-examined later in the week.