Holomisa back in the hot seat at PIC inquiry

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United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa was back in the hot seat at the Public Investment Corporation inquiry on Wednesday, resulting in a number of testy exchanges between him and lawyer Daniel Berger, who accused the UDM leader of defaming his clients.

The commission is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the state-run asset manager, which manages R2.2trn in investments on behalf of public servants.

Berger is representing the Lebashe Investment Group, Harith Fund Management and Harith General Partners, as well as Jabu Moleketi, Tshepo Mahloele, and Warren Wheatley.

This was the second time that Holomisa testified before the inquiry. During his previous appearance in May Holomisa questioned the relationship between Berger's clients and the PIC, saying they appear to have had easy access to funding.

Moleketi is a director of Lebashe and was the former deputy minister of finance and chairperson of the PIC between 2004 and 2008. Mahloele is Lebashe's chairperson, and previously headed the corporate finance and Isibaya fund divisions of the state asset manager. 

The Lebashe group has previously denied having an improper relationship with the PIC, saying its dealings with the asset manager were "above board and in line with the relevant corporate governance regulations". 

'Defamation' 

Berger on Wednesday put it to Holomisa that he had a pattern of defaming his clients by raising allegations of wrongdoing in the form of questions.  

He added that similar terrain had been covered in the past when the two sides met in court in July 2018. At the time the High Court in Pretoria issued an order against Holomisa to stop making or repeating corruption allegations against Lebashe or its directors. 

Holomisa, in response, said the commission of inquiry was a more appropriate place to get to the bottom of allegations of conflict of interest than the court, saying he wanted answers. He had applied for leave to appeal the court ruling, but the application has yet to be heard. 

Testy exchanges

Holomisa's cross-examination was characterised by testy exchanges, with the UDM leader at times directing questions to Berger.  

"I don’t know exactly what you want," he said at one stage. 

The back and forth caused the commission's chair to ask the UDM leader more than once to address him and not the lawyer.  

Responding to one of Holomisa's previous allegations, Berger said his client Harith Fund Managers had paid back with interest the R17m in seed funding it had received from the PIC in 2007, adding the asset manager had made a profit of R95m from selling shares in the group. 

Holomisa, meanwhile, repeatedly asked Berger to show proof. "Everything you say must be accompanied by documentation," he said. 

The day's proceedings, which started late, ended at noon. 

The inquiry continues on Monday. 

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