‘BE VIGILANT’: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa Picture: Ian Landsberg
Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday became the first high-ranking government official to confirm fears of a possible calculated plot to capture the Public Investment Corporation.

Addressing the national general council (NGC) of the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in Kempton Park, Ramaphosa said that because teachers’ pensions were invested in the PIC, they should fight and protect the fund from being looted.

Ramaphosa’s comments are seen as a swipe at the Guptas, who are believed to be eyeing control of the PIC by removing its chief executive Dr Dan Matjila and appointing a proxy, which would allow them control of over R1trillion in workers’ pensions.

Last week, Matjila survived attempts to oust him, when an internal audit report cleared him and board members threw their weight behind him.

Read: PIC clears CEO Matjila of wrongdoing

A source at the watershed board meeting said two board members - both Gupta proxies - allegedly led the charge against Matjila.

The internal report cleared the PIC boss on allegations of illegally extending R21million to a woman said to be his girlfriend. The claims were also refuted in a Sunday Times interview.

According to the source, they said Matjila should not have given the interview and that he brought PIC into disrepute, adding that the alleged proxy plot had also failed at the board meeting, which started at 9.30am and ended at 5.30pm.

Also read: Matjila concerned about media's attention on PIC's credibility

Ramaphosa’s admission about the existence of a possible PIC capture plot flies in the face of persistent denials by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

The Finance Ministry last month dismissed reports in The Star about a planned boardroom coup on Matjila as “fabrication”.

However, Ramaphosa on Thursday urged teachers and the nation to defend workers’ pensions from those circling to loot them.

“You as a union must act in defence of other institutions in the country. Some of those institutions are being looked at from certain points of view. Some of them are being weakened

Read: Matjila wins the battle in ‘Gupta war'

“We rely on you, Sadtu, to be one of the institutions to ensure they are never weakened. It is your money that has been invested in there,” Ramaphosa said.

He also opened the union’s Matthew Goniwe building at its new headquarters, Sadtu Village, and lauded the union for building its new headquarters using its subscription fees.

“I am so impressed with what Sadtu has achieved. You didn’t use money that was looted from anywhere.

“You are putting your money where your mouth is. This is about strengthening your union,” he said.

Last week, Cosatu embarked on a nationwide march against state capture.

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the SACP have also been vocal on the looting of state-owned enterprises, placing most of the blame on the Guptas.

As Ramaphosa was urging Sadtu to safeguard the PIC, former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) chairperson Popo Molefe revealed how that state-owned enterprise (SOE) was captured.

Molefe, whose term as Prasa’s chairperson ended in August, detailed what he felt was the illicit and elaborative scheme “by outsiders” to capture Prasa.

He said his experience at the SOE made him realise the difficulties in “warding off interference and capture (of the SOEs) by external forces”.

“First they capture the decision-makers for example, the chief executive, the chief operating officer and members of the executive team.

“Once they capture them and compromise them with the largesse that they make available to them - such as gifts of houses, vehicles and holidays - then the executives prevail on their juniors to carry out the desires and the demands of the outsiders,” Molefe pointed out.

He refused to be drawn on who the “outsiders” were. He was speaking to The Star on the sidelines of Thursday’s march by civil society formations - under the banner of Future SA - to the Sandton headquarters of the consultancy firm McKinsey & Company SA.

Molefe said he would reveal names as soon as a proper judicial inquiry into state capture was commissioned, as the judiciary was “the only institution providing countervail against the destruction and usurpation of the rights of our people”.

Prasa has been besieged by “tender corruption” in recent years, culminating in a July ruling in the Pretoria High Court setting aside an “unlawful” R2.6bn contract awarded to Swifambo Rail Leasing in 2013 for locomotives that were not suitable for South Africa’s railways.

In delivering that judgment, Judge E Francis said corruption would “triumph if this court does not set aside the tender”.

The tender was approved during Prasa’s former chief executive Lucky Montana’s tenure, which ended in 2015.

Molefe said the capture of Prasa was so rife that the tender specifics were also approved by the “outsiders”, adding that the board he chaired was not afraid to confront these “shenanigans”.

“We were not prepared to accept everything management said. We interrogated management and asked the difficult questions.

“In the end, we went deeper and thoroughly investigated these things to ensure we left no stone unturned,” he added.

Molefe was alluding to investigations the former board carried out following former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Derailed report to address “long-standing corruption and governance issues at Prasa” - according to a July statement by Molefe.

Molefe was part of civil organisations protesting allegations that McKinsey was criminally “complicit in the capture of the South African state”, including the “unconscionable fee of R1.6bn that McKinsey levied for a six-month contract” at Eskom.

On Thursday, Eskom said it was seeking McKinsey- and Gupta-linked Trillian’s assistance in returning R1billion and R564million, which appeared to have been unlawfully paid to both companies in 2016 and this year. This followed findings from the public entity’s investigations into the circumstances surrounding the payments.

Eskom has since written to both companies explaining the actions it would take while its internal disciplinary processes are under way.

Neeshan Balton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and a leader in Future SA, said the march was part of Future SA’s “programme of action” leading up to the 2019 general elections to address graft and state capture.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane led throngs of his party’s supporters to the Gupta family’s Saxonwold, Joburg home on Thursday, saying this was “the real site” of President Jacob Zuma’s capture. Maimane said the Guptas should be arrested, prosecuted and jailed.

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The Star