/ 28 January 2019

The mystery of Matjila’s whistleblower

PIC chief executive Dan Matjila may retain his post as previous charges bought against him no longer apply.
PIC chief executive Dan Matjila may retain his post as previous charges bought against him no longer apply. (David Harrison/M&G)

There was mystery and intrigue surrounding the Public Investment Corporation’s whistleblower as the second week of the Mpati commission of inquiry kicked off.

The commission, led by the former supreme court of appeal president Lex Mpati, is probing issues of impropriety at the state asset manager with a focus on the period between 2017 and 2018.

On Monday, questions arose about the identity of the anonymous whistleblower who goes by the name of “James Nogu” and whether or not he worked alone or had an accomplice.

READ MORE: Anonymous whistleblower takes centre stage at PIC inquiry

The commission heard that Nogu was either a PIC employee or working with someone within the organisation.

In September 2017, Nogu sent an email to PIC board and staff members accusing Dan Matjila of corruption, saying Matjila had funded his alleged girlfriend’s business with R21-million of corporate social investment money without following due process.

The director of Naledi Advisory Services, Frans Lekubo, told the commission that although it is possible for an outside actor to have sent the bulk emails, it would not be possible for an outsider to have access to the internal mailing lists of a company because they do not receive emails from outsiders.

Lekubo was mandated to investigate selected PIC executives by Matjila in a bid to trace who was responsible for leaking confidential PIC information and to uncover the identity of the whistleblower.

“The PIC, at the time, its set up was such that internal mailing groups could receive emails from external people. But be that as it may, the internal mailing groups, [are] not something that you could guess you would need an internal person to give you that information,” Lekubo explained to the commission.

While conducting their investigations, Lekubo said they uncovered that the now-dismissed head of IT Security, Simphiwe Mayisela had opened a corruption case against Matjila without informing him or receiving a mandate from the PIC.

Mayisela was tasked by Matjila with obtaining a subpoena from the Brooklyn police station that would be used to determine the source of the email, however, the police concluded that there was no criminality in the actions of the whistleblower and decided to investigate the allegations against Matjila instead.

Mayisela failed to inform Matjila or the board and only informed his senior, the executive head of IT Vuyokazi Menye, who later resigned with a R7.5-million golden handshake.

Lekubo said further investigations revealed he was intercepting Matjila’s emails and extracting documents that were strictly intended for the chief executive. Mayisela has also falsified certain qualifications and had accessed adult websites using the PIC computer.

A clear example of Mayisela extracting confidential information was when Lekubo discovered a confidential letter of engagement in Mayisela’s computer that had been sent from Naledi Advisory Services to Matjila.

“He had no reason to have that document because it was strictly restricted for the [chief executive] it was marked a highly confidential. I did not even use my PA to sent that document, I personally sent it.”

Lekubo said the earliest date they were able to trace Mayisela’s interception of Matjila’s communication was October 13 2017. He could not say, however, if Lekubo was working alone or had been granted access to the emails

“We don’t know the manner that he did it, when we asked him about it he reserved his rights and refused to cooperate,” Lekubo admitted.

Lekubo said they were also unable to uncover the identity of the whistleblower by the time they completed their investigations because the police would not grant them the subpoena for the email hosting company used by Nogu.

He said he had advised the PIC to appoint a criminal lawyer to advise them. Under the Harassment Act the PIC could get the subpoena the email hosting company that “James Nogu” used to send the email.

The PIC had not responded to requests for comment on whether they had appointed the criminal lawyer and if the subpoena had been served.

Former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus, who is one of the commission’s assistants, requested clarity from the PIC on why there was no follow up on the Nogu matter.

“The assumption from that would be that Mr Mayisela and [James Nugo] were the same person,” Marcus said.