Dan Matjila is an African jewel who gave his all to build an organisation where black excellence is at the epicentre, the writer says. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)
Former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dr Dan Matjila is arguably one of the most vilified black professionals in South Africa, yet through all the hate he still managed to take the financial institution from R380 billion into a R2 trillion asset management giant that is even larger than the likes of Coronation Fund Managers and Old Mutual.

During his testimony at the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into improprieties at the PIC, Matjila made it very clear that part of the PIC’s mandate was to invest in unlisted, black-owned enterprises that would play a crucial role in ensuring economic growth.

What seems to be flying over a lot of people’s heads in Matjila’s revelations is the fact that he grew the PIC into the biggest asset manager on the continent. It was under his tenure that the asset manager was able to grow into an institution that has made an unparalleled impact on the South African economy.

To date, under Matjila’s tenure, as stipulated in his affidavit, the PIC created and sustained 152 226 jobs.

It also funded 22 hospitals, with 3049 beds; 45 349 affordable houses were constructed; there were 91869 housing finance schemes for GEPF members; it ensured that 11 900 student accommodation facilities were made possible as well as 43 679 student loans; and it ensured that 785 SMEs were supported and financed.

His clever wheeling and dealing - as well as having the right instinct to make investments into profitable entities, while taking all the risk in stride - is the mark of a great leader.

Matjila knows what he has achieved; his cool, calm and collected demeanour makes him look like a man who has hardly lost any sleep in the face of highly damning allegations and evidence submitted to the commission against him.

Matjila has dismissed the allegations levelled against him, shrugging off the James Nogu email saga as nothing but a ruse that was concocted by his detractors to oust him from the organisation.

The likes of former ministers of finance, Pravin Gordhan, Malusi Gigaba, Sifiso Buthelezi and Mondli Gungubele are alleged to be part and parcel of engineering his downfall.

The most toxic revelations in his evidence are how Gungubele fought tooth and nail to boot him out of the PIC.

Matjila relayed how Gungubele, who was on crutches and could not move properly after having had an operation, cast his crutches aside and escorted him to his car when he heard the news that Matjila had tendered his resignation.

Gungubele’s rise and fall in South African political discourse is well documented after he misrepresented the truth when he testified at the commission.

Matjila has rightfully observed that it is rather strange and disheartening that the PIC’s multiplier effects have not been well publicised or properly covered.

He is also of the view that the PIC’s success in terms of rands and cents has also largely been ignored.

Instead, the focus has been on vilifying the man who gave his heart and soul to an institution that has empowered many black businesses and professionals in South Africa’s economic landscape.

According to Matjila, the PIC’s performance also has a direct correlation to the economy. He said: “The point, simply put, is that the PIC has been financially sound unlike other SOEs which have, sadly, been hampered by massive debts requiring taxpayer bailouts. Moreover, the PIC has never asked for a cent from the government.”

He further suggested that “in an effort to accelerate transformation and to correct the sins of the past, the PIC has a strong track record of investing in black-owned businesses through both investment activities and corporate procurement for both Assets Under Management”.

His statement also notes that at the corporate level, “the PIC continued its efforts to drive transformation and enterprise development support through procurement spend”.

“More than 85% of procurement spend was directed towards Level 4 or better BEE companies while about 98% of brokerage business (trading on the stock exchanges) was directed towards transformed stockbrokers who are 51% or more black-owned. Also, the PIC Procurement policy is designed to drive the empowerment of women and youth. The PIC has supported SMEs in the financial sector, especially black.”

Matjila is definitely an African jewel who gave his all to build an organisation where black excellence is at the epicentre. It is a pity that all he had built over the years was torn apart by greed and agents of capture whose only means of progress and greatness is piggybacking off others’ achievements while sticking their hands in the cookie jar.

* Mdluli is a Content Editor: Business and Investigations at Independent Media.