Public Investment Corporation boss Dan Matji. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Cosatu is consulting with its affiliates regarding attempts to remove Public Investment Corporation (PIC) boss Dan Matjila, as the fight for control of the crucial funding institution intensifies among political elites.

On Sunday, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation wanted to consolidate a response to the developments at the PIC, which manages public funds and assets in excess of R1.9 trillion.

“We want them to respond to what is going on as a bloc, meaning they have to get more information from the Government Employees Pension Fund and the PIC to respond on these issues,” Pamla said.

On Thursday, the Public Servants Association (PSA), the largest public service union, with more than 230 000 members, threw its weight behind Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in what the union called political interference in the PIC’s affairs.

This comes as Nene moved to block plans by the United Democratic Movement to force him to suspend Matjila over allegations of funding some businessmen without approval of the board, among others.

The UDM filed an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court last month in a bid to block the PIC board from taking any actions against Matjila, as it accused it of conflict of interest.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa instead demanded that Nene fire Matjila, who he accused of personally releasing funding worth R2bn to several businessmen with close ties to the PIC without approval from the board.

In his answering affidavit filed on July 2, Nene said the PIC matter did not need the attention of the courts, as due process was currently under way to address the allegations.

On Thursday, the PSA deputy general manager Tahir Maepa said the attacks on the PIC, including calls for the freezing of investments pending the appointment of union representatives onto its board, were running the risk of losing its integrity and independence.

“The PSA agrees with Minister Nene that no sufficient evidence has been produced to review the decision of the current board. The PIC CEO, Dr Dan Matjila, was cleared by the PIC board on all allegations that he acted improperly by awarding a loan to a company that was linked to his supposed girlfriend.

“The need to resurrect those allegations seems suspicious, linked to a need to replace Dr Matjila with someone who is ‘friendlier’ to the current politician at the helm of the PIC board.

“The PSA is aware that these political ploys to remove Dr Matjila are a way to accommodate investments of a faction of politically connected individuals. If Dr Matjila is guilty of anything, can that evidence be produced, instead of this mudslinging,” Maepa said.

Both Holomisa and Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele could not be reached on Sunday.

Nene said he had requested a detailed report, including internal audit reports, on the allegations from the PIC board, including views from members who were not conflicted on whether disciplinary steps needed to be taken against Matjila and other implicated executives within the PIC.

Nene said while he was aware of the importance of the state-owned asset manager, inviting the courts to usurp his powers would breach the principle of separation of powers.

“For this reason, the minister has maintained a holistic outlook to the prevailing problem. The UDM’s case is aimed at the CEO. The minister’s concern is the overall executive and strategic leadership of the organisation,” he said.

He accused the UDM of being driven by a narrow political agenda by lodging the application, as he had briefed the party of the developments aimed at addressing the allegations.

“The application appears to be intended to serve a narrow political agenda, as opposed to the public’s interest,” he said.

Nene also branded the UDM’s application as being full of misconceptions, adding that the party’s allegations that the board was disqualified from acting against Matjila were not sufficient to establish a disabling conflict of interest. He called for the UDM’s application to be dismissed with costs, saying the allegations were still to be tested.

“There can be no valid legal conclusions based on untested hearsay allegations. In the fullness of time, an investigative process will unfold, and these issues will be dealt with appropriately and holistically.

“The question of what the appropriate steps should be, in the present case, is an issue that lies at the heartland of executive power,” he said.

Several business leaders last week interdicted Holomisa from continuing with the matter.

Political Bureau