Dan Matjila finally makes his debut before Judge Lex Mpati – but gets off to a rough start
More than 70 witnesses have already appeared before Judge Lex Mpati, who is heading the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation in Pretoria. On Monday, the inquiry began, at last, hearing evidence from the fund manager’s former chief executive, Dr Daniel Matjila.
Dan Matjila is the most senior employee of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to appear before the commission. His evidence will be keenly watched as he was also one of the longest-serving executives at the PIC before his resignation in November 2018. The commission is investigating alleged corporate governance failures and alleged corruption at the fund manager.
Many of the 70 witnesses who have appeared so far have fingered Matjila as having played a key role in approving questionable transactions at the PIC. The PIC manages nearly R2-trillion in pension assets of public servants.
Matjila joined the PIC as chief risk officer in 2003, before climbing the ladder to CEO in 2014.
Matjila’s evidence got off to a rough start when the commission’s evidence leader, Jannie Lubbe, told Judge Mpati about the difficulty in obtaining Matjila’s evidence. Lubbe told the commission Matjila’s statement had only been submitted on Friday, and that it was incomplete. This is despite the commission having started engaging with Matjila from December 2018.
“The current situation is that we have not received all the annexures attached from Dr Matjila’s statement,” said advocate Lubbe. “As such, the commission is not fully prepared for his testimony.”
Matjila’s lawyers told the commission he had had difficulty obtaining documents from the PIC, which affected his ability to complete his statement. Matjila’s statement runs to 227 pages without the annexures. The legal teams agreed the statement would be placed before the commission in tranches, starting on Monday with 45 pages.
Matjila began by laying out his background from his home village in North West. After matriculating in 1980, he took up up an apprenticeship which paid him R67.50 a week, which he saved to fund his university education. After obtaining commerce degrees, he moved to the asset management industry. Matjila joined the PIC from fund manager Stanlib.
While watchers of the commission’s proceedings may have been hoping for explosive evidence from the long-serving executive, Matjila’s evidence was mainly centred on laying out the operational environment of the PIC, starting in 2003 as the fund manager was changing from a government department to a fully-fledged corporate fund manager.
Matjila proceeded to tell the commission how the PIC helped start the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund (PAIDF) whose main purpose was to facilitate investments in infrastructure across the continent, a vision spearheaded by former president Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo.
The formation of the PAIDF led to the formation of Harith Fund Managers in 2006, led by former PIC executive Tshepo Mahloele, said Matjila. This was launched with a seed investment of $625-million, with the Government Employees Pension Fund contributing $250-million.
Judge Mpati adjourned the hearing as Matjila was beginning to talk about the PIC’s initiatives to bring black fund managers into the industry. When the commission resumes on Tuesday, Matjila is expected to deal with the circumstances of his departure from the PIC in 2018, after prolonged infighting within the board of directors.
As CEO and chief investment officer before that, Matjila has been accused of playing a key role in approving dubious funding requests that may have prejudiced the pensions of public servants. He became CEO after the unceremonious departure of his predecessor Elias Masilela, who resigned abruptly in 2014 amid governance failures and allegations of political interference.
These include a R4-billion investment in Camac Energy, an oil exploration company alleged to have donated cash to entities linked to former president Jacob Zuma and the ANC.
In 2014, the PIC acquired a stake in the company, led by Nigerian Kase Lawall, allegedly before conducting a due diligence study. The company’s shares have since April 2018 been suspended on both the New York Stock Exchange and the JSE. It is now going through a bankruptcy process in New York. In May the PIC admitted to the commission that it could not locate any of the paperwork it used to justify the investment.
Iqbal Survé, the chairman of Sekunjalo Investments and the controlling investor in AYO Technology, will also feature prominently during Matjila’s testimony over the next week. In 2017, under the guidance of Matjila, the PIC acquired a third of the shares in AYO for R4-billion, enabling the company to issue new shares and list on the JSE. That investment has since shrunk to just R1-billion.
Matjila is set to testify for the rest of the week and is expected to tell the commission about the circumstances that led to his controversial departure from the fund manager. The board had been riven by infighting and was at loggerheads with the executive team.
Matjila resigned after numerous attempts to oust him, allegedly as factions of the ruling party vied for influence and access to the resources under its control. DM
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