PIC board’s demise clears way for proper probe

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CAPE TOWN – The en masse resignation by the board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is widely expected to provide an opportunity for the ongoing investigation to continue without any impediments.

The PIC board presented a joint letter of resignation on Friday after learning, during a scheduled board meeting, that the Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni had lost confidence in the board and had decided to dismiss it.

While at the Cabinet Lekgotla the minister, according to sources, was informed of emails sent by a whistleblower making startling allegations of illicit deals amounting to more than R6 billion, implicating at least four board members.

The emails, shared by one James Noko, mentioned the PIC chairperson Mondli Gungubele, acting chief executive Matshepo More and board members Sibusisiwe Zulu and Dudu Hlatshwayo.

The minister called the PIC chairperson and informed him of his resolve, after which the board held an in-camera meeting and submitted its resignation.

This move has, however, been met with mixed feelings by interested civic organisations with the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) welcoming the resignation.

“The national union holds a strong view that the board’s resignation will provide an opportunity for the ongoing investigation to continue without any impediments.

“Without the board, which might be complicit in acts improprieties, the judicial commission of inquiry can now focus on performing its duty of unearthing the truth in relation to the corruption and improprieties that have taken place at the state asset manager that has led to it haemorrhaging workers hard-earned pension funds,” the union said in a statement on Friday.

Meanwhile, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) expressed dismay at the PIC board’s decision to resign en bloc.

“The reasons advanced by the board are difficult to accept. Citing instability and an attack on the credibility of the board, but then through resignation, creating the potential for further instability, does not make sense.

“We would have expected the members to show more resolve and not to be destabilized by what is, at this stage, mere allegations of impropriety against certain of them,” Naptosa said in a statement on Friday.

What is of interest is that a lot of focus is now on AYO Technologies, which Noko points out in his emails that this is a smoke screen used by Gungubele, Zulu and More allegedly to hide the illicit transactions they are involved in.

No questions are being raised about the PIC’s interests in Steinhoff International, Harith General Partners, Erin Energy and S&S Oil Refinery, which have all made losses amounting to billions of rand.

Noko alleges that since the appointment of More as acting chief executive, it has become common knowledge in the transaction market that if you want any deal to be considered by the PIC you need to seek a meeting with Zulu’s boyfriend, Laurence Mlaudzi, who will then talk to both More and Gungubele to get the go ahead.

If you agree to their terms of sharing 50 percent of the transactional fees and 40 percent shares in the proposed transaction – which will be distributed to Gungubele, More and Zulu through selected proxies – then your deal will be approved with no hassle.

Zulu, who is a niece of former ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize and an acting judge in KwaZulu-Natal High Court, is alleged to have approved transactions for Mulaudzi to the tune of R6 billion. These allegedly include the controversial Total deal where Mulaudzi was paid R100m for facilitation of which R40m was paid to Zulu.

Noko has said he would release even more emails implicating more current and former PIC top brass in illicit transactions for personal gain.

Shortly after the PIC board had issued a statement saying it would investigate its implicated members Gungubele said he was confident the probe would clear him as he had done nothing wrong.

Mulaudzi, while admitting to being in a relationship with Zulu, said he had communicated to the PIC that he would fully co-operate with the commission of inquiry and avail himself whenever required.

“Any insinuation that alleges any undue influence and impropriety on her part, in my interactions with the PIC, is not only false and fabrication but also laughable… To those faceless individuals, engaged in a smear campaign, I wish to state, I have nothing to hide. In fact, I am very ready to tell the full story around my interactions with the PIC but I must state outright, Ms Zulu does not feature at all,” said Mulaudzi.

Meanwhile, Dr Zweli Mkhize, former ANC treasurer-general and Zulu’s uncle said: “Zulu is an independent professional whose credentials speak for themselves… Any allegations that insinuate that she has succeeded as a young black professional through any political influence is disingenuous and mischievous.”

Zulu also initially welcomed the board’s decision to conduct an independent investigation.

“When I became aware of these spurious allegations of impropriety and irregularity against me, I immediately requested the board to conduct an independent investigation. I am pleased that the decision of the board is in line with my request. It is in my professional interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously as these allegations could negatively impact on my professional reputation,” she said before the board’s decision to resign.

This article first appeared on IOL