Finance Ministry slams PIC reports, says Guptas used as smokescreen

PIC CEO Dan Matjila (Photo: PIC)
PIC CEO Dan Matjila (Photo: PIC)

Cape Town – The Ministry of Finance on Thursday dismissed reports that a Public Investment Corporation (PIC) board meeting on Friday will resolve to remove its chief executive, Dan Matjila.

The PIC, which manages R1.87trn of investments in South Africa as well as funds on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund, has been seen as a target for state capture.

A reliable source, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fin24 on Thursday that the plot to remove Matjila started about three months ago. “This is just a ploy to get to him,” the source said. “It is very convenient that he is out of the country when they meet.”

But in a statement sent at 2:30pm on Thursday, Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, who is the chairperson of the PIC, said there is no truth to the allegations.

"The Deputy Minister would like to put it on record that these allegations are unfounded, baseless and are causing unnecessary panic over an internal matter at the PIC. There are no preconceived plans whatsoever to remove Dr Matjila," he said. 

Buthelezi said that, while the PIC board had called for a meeting on Friday with the CEO, this is to "discuss and get clarification from him on internal matters".

He added that he had briefed the Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba on the matter. 

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said he is highly concerned about the allegations. “We cannot sit back and allow President Jacob Zuma, and his number one clients, the Guptas, to get their hands on the R1.8trn under the management of the PIC,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday Finance Ministry spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete told Fin24 that the Guptas had become a “convenient smokescreen to divert attention from something else”.

“There is no preconceived plan to remove Dan from the CEO position,” he said. “Come the end of tomorrow, Dan will still be the CEO of the PIC.”

The Star reported on Thursday morning that deputy PIC chairperson Xolani Mkhwanazi wrote to Matjila, “asking him to answer to alleged corruption by one of the many Gupta-linked websites”.

“The plan, sources claim, is that when Matjila goes, a Gupta appointee will take over, and during this time, the family can lay their hands on billions of rand in the PIC in what appears to be their latest capture of a state-owned entity and possibly their last heist before President Jacob Zuma goes in 18 months.”

Former Eskom and Telkom CEO Brian Molefe, who was previously the chief executive of the PIC, has allegedly been earmarked for the role.

However, an allegation that Mkhwanazi was somehow linked to the Gupta person to replace Matjila was refuted. “He does not have any relationship with the Gupta person referred to,” Tshwete told Fin24.

He confirmed that Matjila was sent the questions, saying: “This information was brought to the board and naturally the deputy minister had to ask that question of him. It would be irresponsible if he did not.”

“The board meeting tomorrow has asked him to explain certain allegations made against him. The board is supposed to deliberate on those responses,” he said. “If his answers are fine with the board, they will move on.”  

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