Parly committee seeks PIC policy on black economic empowerment
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PARLIAMENT’S standing committee on finance wants to know whether the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has policies linked to empowering black businesses.
The PIC came under sharp focus during a hearing by the standing committee on finance regarding various allegations made against the company.
Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and Matome Maponya Investments made presentations to the committee on Wednesday.
The companies allege unfair treatment by the PIC, based on being majority black-owned. Sekunjalo and MMI presented their case on why they found aspects of the Mpati Commission’s report to be questionable and unfair.
The Mpati Commission was appointed to investigate dealings at the PIC, and a report was issued in 2020.
Sekunjalo told the committee that the commission made no adverse findings against the group, yet there were concerning statements made that alluded to corruption allegations, which were not supported by facts.
“The commission made findings without supporting evidence. Whilst the commission made no adverse findings against any entity within the broader Sekunjalo Group, there were statements in the report which implied improper conduct or wrongdoing with no supporting evidence in the body of the report.
“The commission ultimately perpetuated an unsubstantiated narrative that was intended to harm the Sekunjalo Group, AYO Technology Solutions, Independent Media, Sagarmatha Technologies and every other company within the Sekunjalo Group,” said Advocate Wallace Mgoqi for Sekunjalo.
Businessman Kholofelo Maponya, of MMI, told the committee that black businesses were often discriminated against when seeking financial backing for business adventures.
He is currently in a legal dispute with the PIC over R45 million.
Dr Iqbal Survé, the chairperson of Sekunjalo, said the PIC has invested more than R1.6 trillion in 98.5% in white-owned companies and just more than 1% in black-owned businesses. Survé said because of this, there were very few black businesses on the JSE.
“There has been a failure of the PIC to invest in black companies on the stock exchange, and that explains why there are so few companies on the stock exchange,” Survé said.
“We are not in an adverse relationship with the PIC; however, we cannot accept that we are being targeted and discriminated against on the basis of media reports,” Survé said.
In response to the presentations, Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo said although the National Treasury acknowledged the disputes and issues raised about the Mpati report, Sekunjalo and MMI could approach the courts over the matter.
Masondo said the committee and Parliament could not change the findings made.
Masondo’s statements were questioned by some members of the committee, including EFF MP Floyd Shivambu, who said the issues raised about black businesses being sidelined could not be dismissed and had to be deliberated by the committee.
ANC MP Gijimani Skhosana said the allegation that the PIC was heavily invested in white-owned companies had to be answered.
In response, PIC chief executive Abel Sithole denied that the PIC was focused on investing solely in white-owned companies. He also denied that the PIC has refused to fund companies multiple times.
The committee’s chairperson, Joseph (Joe) Maswanganyi, said the court should not be not only measure to help hold people accountable. He said he would like to see the PIC’s policy on investing in black-owned businesses.
“The court should not be the last point of ambit. If there are other platforms that can be used, they should be used. The PIC is an accounting authority, nothing stops us. If there is a matter and people have issues with the PIC, we should not say the door is closed and they should only go to court. The executive has a responsibility,” Maswanganyi said.
“In the next engagement with the PIC, we will have to be briefed about transformation bodies. The issue of black economic empowerment is an important issue. If the PIC has no policy to empower blacks, you know how hard it is for black businesses to get finance,” Maswanganyi said.