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Court orders Holomisa to stop making PIC corruption claims

Jul 16 2018 17:30
Sibongile Khumalo

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has issued a gag order against UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, preventing him from making further corruption allegations against empowerment investment firms he accuse of benefiting from what he deems to be dubious funding by state asset manager the Public Investment Corporation.

The PIC is a government-run fund which manages assets totalling about R1.9trn on behalf of public sector employees.  

In an urgent application heard in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday, Holomisa was ordered to desist from making "unfounded remarks" about Lebashe Investment, Harith General Partners, Harith Fund Manager and three other individuals, including former deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi. Moleketi served on the board of the PIC during his tenure as deputy minister between 2004 and 2008.  

Holomisa made the allegations in a series of letters addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, in which he urged the president to consider broadening the scope of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on state capture to include allegations of corruption in the PIC.

In a letter dated June 26, Holomisa states that Harith and Lebashe seem to be the same company dressed up differently, with the same individuals at the top.

He also questioned the move by the former head of PIC Corporate Finance and the Isibaya Fund (a division of the PIC) Tshepo Mahloele to become Harith CEO.

Moleketi, who is one of the respondents in the case, is the board chairperson of Harith.

The letters, which questioned how the companies were funded, were published on the website of Holomisa’s party, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and shared on social media.

In one of the letters to Ramaphosa, Holomisa states: "There is something seriously wrong where Lebashe is concerned. From our research, little is known about Lebashe and it must be established for whom do they manage the R8.5bn worth of assets."

The six applicants said “the most egregious further offense is contained in a tweet posted on 1 July 2018” - where Holomisa called them derogatory names.

They rejected the allegations as sensationalist and scandalous.

Judge Vivian Tlhapi on Monday ordered that Holomisa and his party “desist from making or repeating any allegations, whether orally or in writing”, against the applicants including web posts, articles, letters, media interviews and other social media posts.

Speaking to Fin24 after the ruling, Holomisa said he would consider appealing and will now continue with the matter in Parliament.

“I am still going to speak out against the apparent acts of corruption at the PIC.”

He said he was disappointed by Ramaphosa’s lack of meaningful response to his letters, stating that the possible corruption and abuse of pensioners' funds at the institution was "bigger" than Gupta state capture.

The PIC's head of corporate affairs Deon Botha issued a statement saying that even though the PIC is not party to the legal proceedings it welcomed the high court ruling. 

“This institution and its CEO have been the subjects of a prolonged, unjustified and malicious public campaign by the UDM and its leader for what can only be described as inexplicable, yet sinister motives to intentionally cause public confusion and tarnish the PIC’s reputation.

"Our judicial system and the courts remain the last vanguard, where facts can be determined objectively and the PIC looks forward to studying the full judgment when it becomes available.”

The PIC is a government-run fund which manages assets totalling about R1.9trln on behalf of the public sector.  

*UPDATE: This article was updated at 18:55 on July 16, 2018 to include comment from the PIC. 

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