Former PIC CEO Dan Matjila has said he was tipped off that there were secret plans to remove him after Malusi Gigaba became finance minister in 2017.
Matjila was testifying for the second day before the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on Tuesday. The commission, led by Justice Lex Mpati, is investigating allegations of mismanagement of the asset manager, which oversees R2trn in investments on behalf of more than 1.2 million state workers.
Matjila described the period under which Treasury was led by Gigaba and former deputy finance minister Sfiso Buthelezi between March 2017 and November 2018 as one of "instability" at the PIC.
Gigaba and Buthelezi were parachuted into Treasury after former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were axed by former president Jacob Zuma. Matjila said the PIC became polarised with the removal of Gordhan and Jonas and there were divisions at the executive level of the PIC.
'Gloves coming off'
"I knew that this development would impact me at a personal level, that the gloves were coming off, so to speak," he told the commission of Gigaba and Buthelezi's respective appointments.
Matjila told the commission that under the Gigaba-reign at Treasury, he felt that the PIC was being captured by both external and internal forces. The external forces being Treasury's new leadership and internally by a faction of the PIC's exco. "It is clear that the PIC has been infiltrated by the forces that sought to destabilise it," he said.
Leaks of confidential information about the PIC to the media were part of an effort to destablise the organisation, he added.
Matjila also said he received a tip-off that there was a plan to remove him from the PIC, in a secret meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa conference in Durban on May 5, 2017.
Matjila said he discussed this information with former PIC board chairperson Jonas – the deputy finance minister chairs the PIC board. Matjila said he shared with Jonas his intentions to resign because he felt the PIC had lost its innocence. "I did not want to be party to the undoing of an enormous amount of work in building the institution," he told the commission.
Matjila stayed on at the PIC after Jonas encouraged him to stay, he said.
Matjila highlighted to the commission that when Nhlanhla Nene was finance minister, the PIC experienced stability. "There was a lack of interference in the day-to-day running of the organisation," Matjila says. The stability in the PIC's board also helped drive good governance in the organisation. Client portfolios also performed well, there were strong social returns in terms of jobs and transformation initiatives, he added.
Nene was axed in December 2015, and replaced with Des van Rooyen, but given the fallout of the rand, Van Rooyen was replaced with Gordhan three days later.
"The replacement of Nene with Gordhan did not have a significant impact on the PIC, as the chairman remained the same," Matjila said.
Matjila is of the view that it is challenging if the PIC is chaired by a politician, especially given the Cabinet reshuffles in recent years. The Cabinet reshuffles under Zuma led to the change in Treasury leadership, which negatively impacted the PIC.
He explained that the deputy finance minister does not automatically become chairperson. There is a process which requires the PIC board chairperson to be approved by Cabinet, which could take months, leaving the PIC in limbo during that waiting period, Matjila said.
He will continue his testimony when the inquiry resumes on Wednesday at 09:30.