Mcebisi Jonas cautions against PIC investment in shaky parastatals

Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas on Tuesday said the national treasury had cautioned the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) against investing in state-owned enterprises that were struggling to get their finances into order.

“We have not blacklisted any but we are saying that when they are on an uncertain footing due diligence has to be performed,” Jonas said after a briefing by the PIC to Parliament’s standing committee on finance.

The executive officer of the PIC, Dan Matjila, said the body concurred with the view that it could not risk putting funds into troubled parastatals and that all approached would have to be weighted carefully to see whether turnaround strategies were yielding results.

“Nobody can deny that there are huge problems with SOEs. We must refuse to invest if we don’t see progress.”

Responding to questions from Economic Freedom Fighters chief whip Floyd Shivambu, Matjila firmly denied that the PIC had invested in companies linked to the controversial Gupta family, the centre of a political storm since Jonas confirmed that they had sought to offer him the position of finance minister shortly before President Jacob Zuma axed Nhlanhla Nene from the post.

“We have no exposure to any of the companies. We can put that on the record,” Matjila said, adding that he had never met any members of the family.

Asked why the PIC had entertained dealings with Gazprombank, Russia’s third largest bank, and this was a precursor to government inking a nuclear power pact with Moscow, Matjila said the matter was no more than a document of understanding since the bank had looked into starting operations in South Africa. Jonas said it had not gone any further, however.

“It has not been acted on.”

The deputy minister refused to take any questions of his statement last month regarding the Guptas and the ministerial post. Committee chairman Yunus Carrim accused Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier of abusing the committee process by asking Jonas not about the PIC but demanding instead to know whether he had made a statement to the police about the meeting where the proposal was put to him.

Jonas laughed as MPs, from the opposition but also the ruling ANC, joked about the Guptas and their alleged political meddling in the meeting.

Shivambu also demanded to know how the PIC could have quadrupled its shares in Lonmin despite the political connotations of the Marikana shooting and the fact that there was no expectation that the platinum price would recover in the near future.

“We have saved quite a number of jobs. The market had responded positively,” Matjila answered. – African News Agency (ANA)

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