UDM ultimatum to Nene: Suspend PIC CEO Dan Matjila or else

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Nhlanhla Nene is the minister of finance. (Picture: Gallo Getty Images
Nhlanhla Nene is the minister of finance. (Picture: Gallo Getty Images

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has given Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene until Thursday to suspend Public Investment Corporation (PIC) CEO Dr Dan Matjila, pending an investigation or face legal action.

"Come Thursday, if he doesn’t suspend him, we will meet in court…he must go and defend Matjila in court," UDM leader Bantu Holomisa told Fin24 by phone.

The UDM in a letter to Nene on Monday said he should be removed from the organisation as his presence at the helm of the public pensions giant could intimidate witnesses and prejudice the investigation.

Nene wrote to the PIC Chairperson and deputy minister of finance Mondli Gungubele last week, requesting information relating to allegations in September 2017 that Matjila channelled funds to his girlfriend.

At the time, the PIC’s internal audit division and the board concluded that the allegations were baseless and Matjila was cleared of wrongdoing.

It remains unclear why Nene wants the probe to be re-opened and the UDM believes the board should not be part of the new request for information as members have previously expressed their full confidence in him.

Holomisa said the UDM is acting on this issue as part of its anti-corruption stance.

However, public sector unions disagree with the UDM's demand for Matjila's immediate suspension.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) General Manager, Ivan Fredericks said prima facie evidence of wrongdoing should first be found, before placing anyone on special leave and asked why the investigation into Matjila is being renewed.

Mugwena Maluleke on behalf of the seven public sector affiliates within the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) also questioned why Matjila is being investigated again after he was cleared by the board.

"We find it very strange that they want to politicise it," said Maluleke.

The fresh interest in Matjila’s actions come as the R2trn asset manager is under increased scrutiny for its investments.

Business Day reported on Tuesday that the PIC’s board would investigate the investment decision to back Ayo Technology to the tune of R4.3bn in December, despite this figure being seen as overvalued. The company is controlled by Independent Media owner Dr Iqbal Surve who also approached the PIC to back his failed listing of Sagarmatha Technologies.

Deon Botha, Head of Corporate Affairs at PIC, said in an emailed response to Fin24 that the allegations contained in the UDM letter to Nene were dealt with by the PIC Board in September 2017.

"The Board fully applied its mind to the report presented by Internal Audit and confirms its satisfaction with the report. The Board has concluded that the allegations were baseless, and that Dr Matjila is cleared of any wrongdoing.

"Dr Daniel Matjila emphatically denies the allegations made against him. As CEO for the PIC, Dr Matjila carries out his fiduciary responsibilities with great diligence and care," said Botha. 

Botha also said the Board is cooperating with Nene and all the reports and other documentation requested have been submitted to him by Gungubele.

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, National Treasury said the minister's office had not received correspondence from the UDM's legal team.

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