Key witnesses due to appear in the next leg of the commission of inquiry into issues of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) have been receiving death threats.
This was revealed in an anonymous SMS sent to the commission it said in a statement on Friday. The commission added that the threats were also sent to people who had already testified.
“These threats cannot be taken lightly and to this end, the commission has reported the matter to the South African Police Services,” Thabi Leoka, spokesperson for the PIC said.
Leoka said the police had already begun urgent investigations to unmask the culprits behind the threats and the person sending the anonymous messages.
“The commission cannot release the identity of those whose lives have been threatened as this matter is now with law enforcement and [we] would not want to jeopardise the investigations,” Leoka said.
The PIC inquiry, chaired by former president of the Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Lex Mpati, kicked off at the end of January and has heard explosive testimony about how executives and directors disregarded PIC policies to fast track certain transactions.
Former CEO Dan Matjila allegedly overrode the PIC’s policy and investment processes to sign off R4.3-billion in investments to AYO Technology Solutions. The IT company is linked to media owner Dr Iqbal Survé who allegedly referred to Matjila as a “good friend” in a meeting attended by assistant portfolio manager Victor Seane.
Seane, one of the employees who was suspended by the PIC for his involvement in the Ayo project, was one of the key witnesses who lifted the lid on Matjila’s alleged impropriety and claimed that he was being scapegoated by higher-ups in the corporation.
The state asset manager — which handles over R2-trillion of state workers pensions and other assets — is currently without a board following the mass resignation of all of its executive directors including its chairperson, Deputy Minister of Finance Mondli Gungubele. The resignation was prompted by emails sent by anonymous whistle-blower “James Noko” who named at least four board members in allegations of corruption and attempting to capture the PIC.
Leoka said the threats have had a negative impact on the willingness of witnesses to come forward and has asked people who receive similar threats to inform the commission.
The commission resumes its public hearings on February 25.