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Slow going at PIC inquiry as Holomisa and lawyer again square off

Apr 15 2019 20:55
Jan Cronje

The judicial commission of inquiry into state-run asset manager the Public Investment Corporation moved forward at a snail's pace on Monday, as UDM leader Bantu Holomisa continued to be cross-examined by lawyer Daniel Berger, SC.

Berger is representing the Lebashe Investment Group, Harith Fund Managers and Harith General Partners, as well as ex-PIC chair Jabu Moleketi, ex-top PIC executive Tshepo Mahloele, and Warren Wheatley.

When Holomisa first appeared before the inquiry in mid-March, he questioned the relationship between Berger's clients and the asset manager, saying they appear to have had easy access to PIC funding, and flagged potential conflicts of interest.

Berger then applied for leave to cross-examine Holomisa. The cross-examination started on Wednesday and continued on Monday. It was again a stop-start affair, characterised by interruptions, testy exchanges and a number of statements from the chair, former Supreme Court of Appeal President Justice Lex Mpati.

"Mr Holomisa, you are getting confused now," said Berger at one stage. "It is you who is getting confused," Holomisa shot back. 

'All he does is speculate'

Berger said that his client Harith Fund Managers was set up in 2007 to manage the investments of the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund, which eventually raised $630m.  

Harith General Partners, meanwhile, was established a few years later to raise money for a second fund, the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund 2, which in the end raised $435m. 

He said the PIC exposure to Harith was seed capital of between R17m to R22m, which has already been paid back.

Berger said the second company needed to be established because the Harith Fund Managers could not, according to its mandate, invest in more than one fund. Staff and assets were migrated from the first to the second fund. 

"Mr Holomisa has no evidence at all, and all that he does is speculate," he said. 

Berger added that Holomisa had no facts to suggest that the transfer of staff from Harith Fund Managers to Harith General Partners and transfer of the management agreement was irregular.

He denied that the Government Employees Pension Fund – a major investor in both funds – had made losses as suggested by Holomisa, saying they had a profit.

The UDM leader, meanwhile said it was not up to him to present proof in response to Berger's questions. Holomisa said his job was rather to present evidence to the commission for it to evaluate, at one stage referring to himself as a "messenger".

"Let the commission verify whether this is factual or not," he replied to a number of Berger's questions. 

Holomisa said the commission had the tools to investigate allegations of conflicts of interest, not him, and the commission would make the final determination. "We are going to go deep and get to the bottom of the truth," he said at one stage. 

When asked by Berger if he agreed that the GEPF had indeed made a profit, Holomisa replied, "You are wasting your time – you are not going to get any concessions from me."

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