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PIC boss Dan Matjila scorns 'frivolous' UDM bid to have him suspended

Jul 19 2018 13:50
Sibongile Khumalo

Public Investment Corporation boss Dan Matjila has dismissed as "frivolous" and baseless a court application by the United Democratic Movement to have him suspended. 

In an affidavit filed in the North Gauteng High Court earlier this month, Matjila says the allegations levelled against him by the party led by Bantu Holomisa have already been dealt with, and the PIC board found him not guilty of any misconduct.

The PIC is a government-run investment manager which holds approximately R1.9trn in assets on behalf of government entities and pension funds.

In June, the UDM mounted an urgent court application seeking an order empowering the Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene to suspend Matjila over allegations of corruption. Holomisa approached the court to seek Matjila's suspension following reports that he used PIC funds to fund the business of a woman said to be his romantic partner, Pretty Louw. The allegation surfaced in September 2017. Holomisa argues the PIC's board is conflicted in the matter.

Matjila has consistently denied romantic involvement with Louw.

Holomisa has also written letters to Nene and President Cyril Ramaphosa asking that Matjila be removed, and that what he has described as an "iceberg of corruption" at the PIC be investigated. 

Nene is opposing the bid to force him to fire Matjila, saying his department is already probing allegations of governance breaches at the Public Investment Corporation. He has also said the "invitation to the court to usurp the minister’s powers" would be a breach of the principle of separation of powers.

Response 

In his responding affidavit, Matjila says there is "no public interest implicated" and that "at best" the issues contained in the UDM's court application "relate to employer/employee relationship".

He calls for the matter to be "dismissed with costs and not simply struck from the roll, as the applicant was aware even before launching this application that its application is frivolous […]."

An amount of R21m is said to have been paid to a company called Mobile Satellite Technologies (MST), allegedly linked to Louw.

Matjila admits that the funds were paid into MST’s bank account by the PIC, but an internal audit found that "Ms Louw was not a shareholder or director at MST".

Matjila is also accused of asking Lawrence Mulaudzi, a representative of Ascendis, in which the PIC had invested, to settle Louw's personal debt amounting to R300 000. 

In his responding affidavit, Matjila says he can only be suspended when there are pending allegations or investigation against him, and that there is no basis to justify his suspension, as the allegation levelled against him "were dealt with through a transparent process" where he was called to defend himself.

"On 15 September 2017, the board issued a press statement where it expressed its confidence in me and indicated that it has accepted my representations."

"This decision of the board remains binding and was never challenged nor set aside," he said.

He further states that that an internal audit he initiated to probe the claim had concluded that the allegation were baseless.

But the relationship between himself and Pretty Louw was excluded from the internal investigation.

No gross misconduct

Matjila contends that he has acted "diligently, honestly and with integrity" as CEO of the PIC, despite the "frivolous" allegations which were made against him in 2017.

"There is not even a shadow of what could be perceived as misconduct, let alone gross misconduct."

Nene, who is one of the four respondents in the case, has called the UDM application "overly-eager", saying the party failed to establish facts before bringing the application.

He does, however, say that he is "deeply concerned about alleged governance problems at the PIC", which require "urgent attention and resolve".

The PIC has in the recent past been implicated in improper conduct, including allegations some of its officials paid and received bribes from the VBS Mutual Bank. The PIC's legal head resigned Friday, after he testified before the a forensic investigation into the bank.

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