PIC inquiry hit by death threats as it prepares to hand over interim report

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The inquiry probing allegations of impropriety into the Public Investment Corporation will on Friday deliver its interim report to President Cyril Ramaphosa, amid death threats against witnesses who have presented evidence, a spokesperson has said.

The Commission of Inquiry, headed by former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Lex Mpati, has shone a spotlight on some of the controversial investment decisions undertaken by the state pension fund manager. 

Commissions spokesperson Thabi Leoka said death threats had been sent to certain witnesses via anonymous text messages.

Police matter

"We got to hear about the death threats from the evidence leader….it’s death threats against people who have given evidence," said Leoka, adding that she could not divulge the identities of witnesses due to security reasons.

She said the matter had been handed to the police.

Witnesses including PIC employees have given explosive evidence on the business dealings of asset manager, including a R4.3bn investment in AYO Technology Solutions and Sagarmatha, whose plan to list on the JSE later fell through. Both companies are linked to businessman Iqbal Survé.

Last month, PIC Assistant Portfolio Manager Victor Seanie testified that the fund’s former CEO, Dan Matjila, used his authority to push through the AYO transaction, allegedly ignoring due process.

Seanie’s testimony also pointed to a friendship that existed between Matjila and Survé, including allegations that the team involved in the AYO transaction were not allowed to negotiate the R43 a share initial public offering share price, despite internal concerns that it was overvalued.

AYO shares have lost over half of their value since listing on the JSE in December 2017.

Misconduct, corruption

The PIC, which manages R2.08trn - a large portion of which is on behalf of public servants - has faced allegations of misconduct and corruption, which led to the appointment of the inquiry by Ramaphosa.

Its board, which resigned this month, has also faced allegations of corruption.

Leoka lamented that the death threats may deter other people from coming forward to give evidence, but stressed that there had been an encouraging response from people who were willing to come forward to give evidence.

She confirmed the inquiry would deliver its interim report to Ramaphosa on Friday.

"The interim report is ready and will be delivered to the president on Friday," said Leoka.

The inquiry is set to resume on February 25 and is expected to hear evidence from a "formidable line-up of witnesses".

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