'No ANC meddling' in PIC

Daniel Matjila says the Vodacom share sale is above board. (Yunus Mohamed, Gallo)

Daniel Matjila says the Vodacom share sale is above board. (Yunus Mohamed, Gallo)

Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Daniel Matjila has rejected claims that ANC top brass are lobbying the organisation to sell its shares in Vodacom to a black economic empowerment (BEE) consortium.

This came after industry insiders told the Mail & Guardian this week that Luthuli House was putting pressure on Matjila and other PIC senior managers to sell its stake in Vodacom to one of a number of competing BEE consortia.

The M&G reported last week that former Vodacom executive Romeo Kumalo has emerged as a key player in a BEE grouping tipped to acquire a lucrative stake in Vodacom.

The PIC’s decision to sell its Vodacom stake came just a few months after it bought the government’s 13.9% stake in Vodacom for R30?billion – bringing its total shareholding to 17%.

The government sold the Vodacom stake at a 10% discount to the PIC to finance the R23?billion cash injection it had promised power utility Eskom.

In a statement issued to the M&G on Thursday afternoon, the PIC vehemently denied claims that it had been leaned on by Luthuli House.

“The PIC rejects as baseless the allegations that its [chief executive] and other senior managers have been put under pressure by Luthuli House to sell the Vodacom shares to one of the BEE consortia, and for the PIC to fund the transaction,” said Matjila.

“It is useful to point out that the PIC’s investment decisions follow an established process and are underpinned by [our] clients’ investment mandate.”

Matjila said he was not in a position to give further details about the Vodacom transaction until a firm deal was on the table and a cautionary had been issued by Vodacom.

He said the PIC’s decision to sell 25?million Vodacom shares (or 1.7% of the cellular service provider’s shareholding) last year was done to facilitate a risk mitigation strategy by the banks.

An ANC national executive committee (NEC) member who asked to remain anonymous said he would not be surprised if the ANC lobbied for a particular BEE consortium to be given the PIC stake in Vodacom.

“In the real world, lobbying happens all the time. If someone comes and says there is this deal and it is clean, why should the ANC not support that? The reality is that if the BEE consortium did not buy the PIC stake, an institutional investor would.

“It’s a wrong theory to say this [PIC stake in Vodacom] can be bought by anyone other than blacks,” the NEC member said. “It makes me angry that BEE is seen as corrupt. If it was a white person vying for the Vodacom stake, there won’t be this kind of noise.”

He said the PIC bought the government stake in Vodacom not only to bail out Eskom but also to prevent the market from getting access to it.

Matjila told the Business Times last Sunday that he was worried about the slow progress in transforming Vodacom.

An earlier version of this article equated 25-million of Vodacom shares to 17% of the cellular provider’s shareholding. This has been corrected to 1.7%

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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