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Public Investment Corporation woes move lawyer to verse

Apr 02 2019 06:29
Janice Kew, Bloomberg

Accusations of dubious investment decisions and poor leadership at the Public Investment Corporation have been staples of a long-running inquiry into the company’s dealings. But never in the form of poetry.

That changed on Monday with the testimony of Pamela Phala, a senior member of the legal department at the PIC. Ahead of her sworn statement, she performed several lines of self-written verse to describe what she sees as the demise of a once-great South African institution.

The PIC was once a pillar of justice that “held scales in its left hand and in its right a sword,” she told three stony-faced commissioners. “But in the course of time, the laws of the land were corrupted,” she said. “Might took the place of the right. And the weak were oppressed. And the mighty ruled with an iron rod.”

Responsible for most South African government workers’ pension funds, the PIC is being probed over allegations of wrongdoing linked to various investments that have contributed to financial losses and a host of senior departures. In line with earlier witnesses, Phala testified of questionable behavior by former Chief Executive Officer Daniel Matjila and his successor Matshepo More, who she said tried to fire her using electronic surveillance on her computer.

The executives wanted to remove her and replace her with a “yes man,” Phala added.

More was suspended last week after claims she interfered with people testifying at the inquiry. Nine board members resigned in February, including chairperson Mondli Gungubele, who is also deputy finance minister.

The PIC’s legal department was corrupted by board interference and the regulatory framework is haphazard, Phala said, urging the commission to make that a matter of urgency. Ending on a more positive note, she said she believes the PIC will recover and a “new era will bring a new dawn.”

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