Matjila: I was removed because I did not agree to save Edcon

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Former CEO of the Public Investment Corporation Dan Matjila has said his removal from the asset manager was politically motivated, and his decision not to back a deal to save Edcon was used against him.

Matjila appeared before the commission of inquiry into the PIC to continue delivering his testimony for the third day in a row. The commission, led by Justice Lex Mpati, is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the corporation, which manages R2trn of funds on behalf of more than 1.2 million state workers.

He told the commission that on November 23, 2018, he attended a meeting arranged by PIC board chairperson Mondli Gungubele to save retailer Edcon from collapse. A total of 140 000 jobs were at stake. Among those present at the meeting were Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, and management of Edcon, he said.

According to Matjila, Edcon had approached the PIC for a loan before, but the asset manager did not support the proposals as there were far more downside risks to such a transaction. His refusal to support the deal appeared to have been used against him, as on the same day Gungubele told Matjila at a board meeting that his employment contract had ended.

Matjila believes that there were political motivations behind the Edcon deal.

"The deal was needed to prevent a massive fight between Cosatu, the UIF, PIC, government and the ANC, with repercussions for the alliance," he told the commission. He suggested that he was removed so that the Edcon deal could be finalised ahead of the elections.

Cosatu on Monday tweeted about these allegations, revealed in Matjila's prepared statement, which was leaked over the weekend. The trade union federation said the idea was "laughable" and a "desperate attempt" to blame his resignation on Cosatu.

Continuing his testimony before the commission, Matjila said he believed he was not leaving the PIC amicably and that he did not resign from the organisation, but had rather given Gungubele a letter with an exit strategy. Matjila said that the board was in breach of his employment contract by not allowing for an amicable exit.

"I told the board I do not accept their decision and the separation is not amicable as stipulated in my employment contract.

"I told the board I have never expected to part ways with the company I have served for 15 years in the manner the board has chosen. That was the last time I set foot at the PIC."

Matjila added that some monies had still not been paid to him in terms of his employment contract and that he had been funding his appearance before the commission.

When asked by assistant commissioner Emmanuel Lediga if there had been any progress in terms of payments due to him following his exit, Matjila said that there had been legal letters sent back and forth.

"It looks like everything hinges on this commission, which I don't understand," Matjila said.

Matjila will continue his testimony on Thursday from 09:30.

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