Who wants to smear Matjila and why?

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By: Business Report (Adri Senekal De Wet)

CAPE TOWN – All eyes will be on the Mpati Commission of Inquiry today (and for the rest of the week), where the previous chief executive of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Dr Daniel Matjila is set to continue his testimony, and is expected to shed light on the PIC’s investments in Independent Media and, as assistant commissioner Gill Marcus so often has referred to during the inquiry, “the Sekunjalo group-related companies”.

The PIC Commission was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October 2018 to probe allegations of impropriety at the PIC.

Retired Judge Lex Mpati is assisted by Marcus, a former governor of the SA Reserve Bank and board member of Glencore (important to note), and Emmanuel Lediga, founder of Legae Securities. Lediga has experience in equities research and financial markets’ trading, corporate finance, capital raising and black-empowerment initiatives.

I have attended the commission from time to time and when I couldn’t, I followed it on the wires.

There were times when I was shocked, at times deeply concerned, but mostly I have found myself considering the real possibility that these proceedings are a set-up – to rid the PIC of Matjila, damage his legacy, and remove a number of the PIC board members.

I previously wrote that “the commission is mandated to look into whether a director or employee of the PIC misused their position for personal gain; whether legislation or policies regarding the protection of whistle-blowers reporting corrupt activities were complied with; and whether discriminatory practices were followed with regard to the remuneration and performance awards of PIC employees.

The PIC Inquiry thus has a mandate to examine and make recommendations on governance, structure of the PIC, and any other matter that it deems warrants attention, but with special focus on the period between January 2015 and August 2018.

The president gave the commission a deadline to submit an interim report by February 15, 2019, and submit a final report to the president on April 15, 2019.

The commission has not been able to meet these deadlines, and several extensions have been asked for and granted. The latest deadline to my knowledge is end of July.

A source revealed to me over the weekend “that the commission asked for a further extension, until the end of October.

But that request was declined”. The source said: “The PIC is under severe pressure to bail Eskom out, and Matjila was in the way; they had to get rid of him, appoint a new chief executive and PIC board, a board that will bail Eskom out.”

‘POWERFUL MAN’

Marcus has called Matjila “a powerful man” during his testimony, an attribute Matjila smilingly denied.

But Marcus ignored this, and like a bulldog, continuously refers to him, or his position, as “powerful”, often creating the impression that he rules with an iron fist or inferring that he is a demi-god.

At one-point, she openly laughed at him, saying: “And you said you are not powerful!” I find Marcus’s aggression towards Matjila misplaced, and most definitely unprofessional.

Judge Mpati and Emmanuel Lediga on the other hand have treated all who have testified to date with equal respect, applying the maxim innocent until proved guilty.

Evidence leader advocate Jannie Lubbe’s attitude towards Matjila is also noted.

The reality is that Matjila’s name has been cleared by the Budlender report: no evidence could be found of any alleged romantic relationship with Pretty Louw (among others the report looked into) – yet Lubbe and Marcus continue to bring it up.

WHO IS REALLY POWERFUL HERE?

I have found Matjila’s testimony over the many days he has appeared before the commission to be open and honest.

Yet, I got the impression that the more the evidence leader and his investigation team failed to get something to accuse him of the more they attacked him in person, questioning even messages he receives on Christmas Day, people he visited at their homes or met in restaurants.

Really?

I have met Matjila a couple of times, as executive editor of Independent Business – that is Business Report and Personal Finance.

One event hosted by Personal Finance was the annual Raging Bull Awards in January 2018.

I approached Matjila in 2017, requesting him to address an investment summit hosted in the morning before the awards event.

While I was in Davos attending the World Economic Forum, he called me and informed me that he needed to be in Parliament on that day and was therefore unable to provide an address.

I then invited him to attend the Raging Bull Awards event that evening, and asked him to say a few words.

After all, it is an event awarding top asset managers and as the chief executive of the country’s largest asset manager, it made sense.

As an invited speaker, space was allocated for him at the main table. The chairperson of Independent Media, Dr Iqbal Survé, also attends this flagship event every year, and shares the main table with me, the guest speaker and other selected guests or sponsors.

Survé made himself available to testify at the PIC Commission.

Earlier this year, he delivered his testimony and was hammered by Marcus when he made a strong case for transformation and the lack of investment (by the PIC) in black companies and black entrepreneurs.

Survé made it very clear: “I will not apologise for my passion for transformation”, but he was cut short by both Marcus and Lubbe each time he spoke about his passion for transformation.

CROSS-EXAMINATION

During cross-examination, Lubbe asked Survé about his relationship with Matjila, asking if he is a friend of Matjila.

Survé stated that he has a professional relationship with Matjila, thereafter Lubbe said: “I’ve got a picture of you and Matjila sitting at the same table at the Raging Bull Awards.”

An attempt to make two plus two add up to more than what it is.

I have to ask, though, if this is a set-up (and it looks increasingly like it is), then who wants to discredit Matjila and why?

The truth is that Matjila fought against “PIC capture”, and he is now paying the price for it.

His legacy – being a successful tenure at the PIC, which saw the asset manager growing to more than R2trillion – is in the process of being eroded, and ultimately ruined.

But for what and whose gain?

So, who is really the “power” here?

In author George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, he portrays how “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Is there a battle for control of the PIC and its purse strings to benefit just some of the farm? Are there other agendas at play?

Does Gill Marcus, for example, have the power to silence Matjila – a man who fought against PIC capture for years, and why?

(Marcus serves on the board of Glencore. You connect the dots)

Note: Matjila wrote an open letter to South Africa in October, saying “considering that so many column inches in the media have been dedicated to questioning my integrity and my competency at the PIC, I feel compelled to respond to what I regard to be unsubstantiated, malicious and spurious allegations made against me.

“I want to begin by stating what some media publications have been remiss in mentioning: the undeniably successful performance of the PIC over the period that I have been at its helm.”

Performance highlights for the financial year ended March 2018 include:

* Growth in assets under management to R2.083trln.

* PIC profit in 2018 was R417million.

* Returns on investments over the past 10 years for GRPF: 10.25percent.

* Returns on investments during the previous 10 years for the UIF: 9.23percent.

Moreover, under his leadership, the PIC has consistently achieved clean audits – a rare phenomenon in the public sector.