Matjila: I was under immense political pressure to fund various companies

The commission probing alleged impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has heard how the state asset manager was inundated with requests by senior political figures, business people, financiers and bankers to invest in various companies.

During his third day of testimony before the commission — chaired by Justice Lex Mpati — Dan Matjila, the PIC’s former chief executive, said that at his time at the helm, the management team was faced with requests for funding from highly “powerful and influential” people.

READ MORE: Matjila denies being aware of unfair labour practices at PIC

Matjila recounted how he had received a request from a “top politician” from the ANC to assist in funding the party’s January 8 celebrations in 2016.

Matjila, through evidence leader advocate Jannie Lubbe, former ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize and former deputy minister of finance, Sifiso Buthelezi as among those who requested that the PIC fund the governing party.

READ MORE: I did not receive a loan from VBS — Matjila

Matjila said that he then requested that Lawrence Mulaudzi of Kilimanjaro Capital (KiliCap) to assist with the request because the PIC did not deal with the matter of funding political organisations.

In March, Mulaudzi told the commission that Matjila had forced KiliCap to merge with another empowerment company, Sakhumnotho. This was after KiliCap approached the PIC to fund its BEE stake in Total SA for R1.7-billion.

When quizzed by Gill Marcus, the commission chair’s assistant, on whether his conduct was appropriate given his status as CEO, Matjila said that there was little he could do.

“I was asked if I can ask some of the people who have been funded by the PIC if they can contribute to the ANC January Statement and I simply passed on the request,” he said.

Matjila further bemoaned the “merry-go-round” of finance ministers which impacted the asset manager in the form of changes to the shareholder representative and the chairman of the PIC, a role which has traditionally been held the deputy minister of finance.

“Whenever there is a change, turmoil or movement in the ANC government, there is equal pressure and movement within the PIC structures,” he said.

He said that the motive behind the ever-changing political principal at the PIC was driven by the desire to make a “piggy-bank” of the PIC. “Every time there’s a new sheriff in town, there’s an effort to get Dr. Dan out of the PIC.”

Matjila described the political pressure on the asset manager to invest R6-billion into South African Airways in 2017 as part of the ailing airline’s turnaround plan. He said SAA’s then chairperson, Dudu Myeni, whom he described as having close ties with former president Jacob Zuma, approached him to persuade him to fund the airline’s overhaul.

“It is unusual for the chairperson of an [state owned entity] or any company for that matter to request funding. Normally this is a function of the CEO or the [chief financial officer],” he told the inquiry.

Matjila said Myeni was visibly unhappy with the PIC’s decision to decline SAA’s request after the asset manager found that it could not fund the airline due to its low investment grade.

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Thando Maeko
Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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