Union meets with state asset manager the PIC about its investments

Money. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Money. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Public sector union the PSA will on Monday meet with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to demand details of several controversial investments made in recent years.

Among them is the R4.3bn stake taken in Ayo Technologies in December last year, where the PIC paid a reportedly inflated price of R43 a share.

Ayo is linked to the now postponed flotation of Sagarmatha Technologies, and both groups are tied to family controlled companies headed by Iqbal Survé, who controls newspaper publisher Independent Media. 

It was the fact that the PIC both bought equity and lent money for the purchase of the newspaper chain that first led the 230 000-strong PSA to question PIC investment decisions. 

The PIC is a government-owned investment vehicle that manages some R2trn of state employee pension funds. Its mandate allows it to invest a small proportion of these funds on the basis of “social responsibility”. PSA officials are concerned that it was under this guise that a number of “irresponsible” or “politically motivated” investments were made. 

Among them they maintain investments in vehicles controlled by trade union investment companies.

As a result, PSA negotiator Tahir Maepa notes: “When we heard rumours that the PIC was considering investing in Sagarmatha we contacted them and they told us they had reconsidered and would not be going ahead.” 

This exchange followed several demands from the union that the PIC both disclose the details of all its investments, and that public sector unions be given seats on the PIC board. It was also made clear to the PIC that the PSA, probably the largest of the public sector unions, along with other unions affiliated to the Federation of Union (Fedusa), would withdraw members' pension funds from PIC management. 

This was previously spelled out by Fedusa general secretary Dennis George, and Maepa confirmed on Monday that such a move “is still on the cards”.

After Monday's meeting, which follows considerable delays, the PSA hope to have “full details” of several investments about which they are concerned. 

“We will then examine the information and discuss our decisions at a later meeting,” Maepa said.

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