The long-awaited testimony of former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) CEO Dan Matjila on Monday July 8 at a commission of inquiry into governance issues at the fund manager was overshadowed by allegations from UDM leader Bantu Holomisa that Matjila unduly benefited from the now-defunct VBS Mutual Bank.
Anything would have overshadowed Matjila’s testimony — it started off vapidly as he barely dealt with allegations that placed him at the centre of corruption and driving a funding-for-pals scheme at the PIC, which manages about R1.8-trillion of state workers’ funds.
Matjila’s testimony also hit a procedural snag as his prepared statement was incomplete and submitted late to the inquiry’s evidence leaders.
Outside of the inquiry, Holomisa took to Twitter, circulating a letter he submitted to the inquiry’s evidence leader, advocate Jannie Lubbe, on Monday 8 July, saying that a whistle-blower informed him about an “alleged” forensic report by Nexus Forensic Services, which was commissioned by the PIC board to probe VBS transactions.
Holomisa said Matjila, together with the former PIC chief risk officer Paul Magula and head of legal Ernest Nesane, received loans from VBS, which was placed into curatorship by the SA Reserve Bank in March 2018.
Magula and Nesane, who both sat on the VBS board to guard the PIC’s 26% interest in the bank, were mentioned in an SA Reserve Bank report into the collapse of VBS. Advocate Terry Motau, the main author of the report, found that Magula and Nesane received about R7-million in bribes to buy their silence on the R2-billion looting of the bank.
Holomisa said Matjila has never declared a R2.5-million VBS Mutual Bank loan allegedly extended to him, which “may constitute a conflict of interest and even possible criminal conduct”. He implied that Matjila unduly benefitted from VBS Bank, which was at the centre of one of the country’s biggest banking scandals after the looting of depositor funds from municipalities, stokvels and the elderly in Limpopo.
Matjila named in VBS report
The SA Reserve Bank report didn’t implicate Matjila in VBS corruption, but it did mention his name.
Motau said he could not make any “definitive finding” on whether Matjila was paid a R5-million bribe from VBS, but recommended that authorities investigate the matter. Matjila denied receiving a VBS bribe.
The allegation around Matjila was made by the general manager of the VBS treasury, Phophi Mukhodobwane. When VBS attempted to obtain a R2-billion facility from the PIC, Mukhodobwane said he was instructed by VBS chairman Tshifhiwa Matodzi to withdraw R5-million in cash from the bank’s Makhado branch. Mukhodobwane would take this money by helicopter to Lanseria airport in Johannesburg, where it was to be paid to Matjila in exchange for VBS receiving funding from the PIC.
Mukhodobwane, however, told SA Reserve Bank investigators that he did not know whether the R5-million was actually paid to Matjila. In the end, the PIC rejected VBS’s funding request.
According to Holomisa, the term of Matjila’s VBS loan is 30 years, which he said raises several questions about whether it was “extended at arm’s length” and if it “was the standard for VBS Mutual Bank.”
“In terms of the conditions of the loan, it is allegedly unclear whether the loan was intended to ever be repaid, or whether it is/was, in fact, being repaid. The only way to establish the veracity of this allegation is to scrutinise the dates of disbursement and repayment,” he wrote in the letter to Lubbe.
Matjila, Nexus respond
Holomisa said the Nexus Forensic Services report recommended that the PIC board should pursue a criminal investigation presumably against Matjila, who resigned from the PIC with immediate effect in November 2018.
In a WhatsApp message, Matjila told Business Maverick that Holomisa’s allegations are “absolutely untrue.” “I have never seen such a report or any documentation in connection with it [VBS loan],” he added.
Advocate Francois Labuschagne, a director of Nexus Forensic Services, would not confirm or deny whether the PIC commissioned the firm to institute a forensic investigation.
“We respect the role of investigative journalism, but Nexus Forensic Services has signed confidentiality agreements with our clients and accordingly no information can be divulged,” he told Business Maverick.
He referred further questions to the PIC, which is yet to respond to requests for comment.
Arguably, Holomisa has a motive. In the letter he sent to Lubbe, he said Matjila might implicate him when he testifies at the inquiry until July 11. And his relationship with Matjila is adversarial.
In April 2019, Holomisa was forced to concede that he had not provided evidence to the inquiry to support his claims that Matjila was “in bed” with investment managers Harith General Partners and Lebashe Investment Group (the brand new owners of Sunday Times, Business Day, Financial Mail, and other media titles – Ed). Holomisa alleged that the directors of the companies, including Tshepo Mahloele, Jabu Moleketi and Warren Wheatley, had a close relationship with Matjila, which secured them funding from the PIC. BM