Johannesburg - A serious pushback is unfolding inside and outside the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the custodian of pensions of public servants, to block alleged attempts by the Gupta family to hijack the crucial state-owned company.
It is believed that the Guptas are pushing to replace PIC chief executive Dr Dan Matjila tomorrow with one of their associates, a board member recently appointed by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
The PIC is the biggest investor in the economy – with R1.87 trillion under its wing – and manages funds on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund.
The Star understands that deputy PIC chairperson Xolani Mkhwanazi has written to Matjila, who is currently in the US on business, asking him to answer to alleged corruption by one of the many Gupta-linked websites. The allegations have been distributed to board members ahead of the urgent meeting tomorrow.
Matjila is accused of funding a project linked to an alleged lover.
The plan, sources claim, is that when Matjila goes, a Gupta appointee will take over, and during this time, the family can lay their hands on billions of rand in the PIC in what appears to be their latest capture of a state-owned entity and possibly their last heist before President Jacob Zuma goes in 18 months.
This isn’t the first time the Guptas have allegedly tried to wrest control of the PIC.
Sources at the National Treasury told The Star that the Guptas have been lobbying Gigaba to appoint disgraced former Eskom boss Brian Molefe as chief executive of the PIC.
This was after Molefe left the po- wer utility amid a pension scandal.
The Guptas, still nursing bloody noses after they were found to have used disgraced British public relations firm Bell Pottinger to fan racial divisions in South Africa, have also been nailed for state capture by former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report, which is the subject of a court battle between Zuma and the DA.
Zuma is taking the report on review, but the main opposition party wants him to implement the recommendations of the protector, which include appointing a judicial commission of inquiry headed by a judge appointed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Zuma believes he must appoint a judge of his choice, that Madonsela’s recommendation violates the separation of powers and that the constitution mandates him to appoint judges.
The Guptas are allegedly using the same modus operandi they used to capture other state-owned entities (SOEs) such as Eskom, Transnet, SA Airways, the SABC and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.
Matjila said he was aware of tomorrow’s meeting, which was initially termed a “directors’ affairs committee meeting” and then swiftly changed to a special board meeting.
He said he knew about the corruption allegations against him, but was in the dark on the possible Gupta takeover at the PIC, which he said would be detrimental to the PIC and civil servants.
“I’m not aware of such plans, but I have been asked to respond to these allegations. I have done so in writing. It will be another governance failure at a SOE. It will disrupt the functioning of the PIC. Civil servants’ hard-earned money will be under serious risk,” said Matjila.
Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayi hlome Tshwete acknowledged written questions, but had not responded to them at the time of publication.
However, it is believed that Gigaba is concerned about Matjila’s possible removal and would prefer to keep him on until next year, at least.
A Treasury source said Gigaba had blocked attempts to bring Molefe to the PIC.
PIC chairperson Sfiso Buthelezi, who is also the deputy finance minister, said last night there was no truth to an attempt to remove Matjila by the board tomorrow.
Deon Botha, PIC head of corporate affairs, said he did not have information on the meeting’s agenda.
“Special board meetings are called through the directive of the chairman of the PIC board. We are not privy to the form and content of the agenda of the planned special board meeting.
“We therefore suggest that questions relating to the upcoming special board meeting be directed to the chairman of the PIC board.”
Mkhwanazi could not be reached on Wednesday despite SMSes and an email sent to him.
Molefe could not be reached for comment.
The Guptas’ lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, said they were being targeted because they had initiated litigation that involved the PIC.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party was not aware of attempts to capture the PIC.
“We generally don’t get involved in appointments of boards; we leave that to the shareholder,” he said.
But the opposition parties and Cosatu are fuming and threatening to derail the alleged plans to loot the PIC and claims that Matjila could be pushed out tomorrow.
On Wednesday, the EFF and Cosatu came out with guns blazing, warning they were aware that there was a plan to use workers’ hard-earned money to bail out SOEs captured by the politically connected family.
Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said although the labour federation was not aware of tomorrow’s board meeting where Matjila’s fate was to be sealed, it knew of plans by Gigaba to use workers’ money to bail out what he referred to as “captured entities”.
This, Pamla said, included the financially beleaguered national carrier SAA and the trouble-torn Eskom.
Pamla reiterated that the organisation’s position was to fight “the state capture fuelled by the Guptas” and added that the controversial family were on the federation’s radar in order for Cosatu to protect workers’ retirement funds.
“When Gigaba was at the central executive committee, he gave a presentation…
“After that presentation we discussed (it), and the central executive committee said: ‘No, we are not going to allow him to bail out SAA with workers’ savings under its current leadership.’
“This is because this current leadership is corrupt and cannot account for a lot of activities that have taken place at SAA.
“For workers’ retirement savings to be utilised, we need a situation where, firstly, the people implicated in state capture have to be charged and prosecuted.
“To hear that there are attempts to use workers’ retirement savings, again, to continue with the looting, we believe that this is a pop in the eye for the workers, which is something that we will deal with as soon as we have all the relevant information.”
The EFF claimed that the mooted plan by Gigaba to give SAA a R6 billion bailout from the PIC was an example of how the SOE was used to rescue entities milked by the Guptas.
“The EFF condemns the continuing destabilisation of the Public Investment Corporation by the National Treasury.
“Since their appointment (Gigaba and his deputy, Sfiso Buthelezi), there have been several illegal and undoubtedly wrong directives given to the PIC,” the EFF’s statement read.