CEO of Africa’s Biggest Fund Manager Fights for His Future

  • PIC head says accusations he misused funds are ‘spurious’
  • Cuts short U.S. trip to return to South Africa for meeting

Public Investment Corp. Chief Executive Officer Dan Matjila rejected an allegation he misused funds as “spurious” ahead of a board meeting on Friday that could decide his future at the helm of Africa’s biggest money manager.

Johannesburg’s Star newspaper reported Thursday that Matjila has been told by PIC Deputy Chairman Xolani Mkhwanazi to respond to an accusation he used PIC funds to finance a personal project related to someone he is allegedly in a relationship with. Matjila, 55, cut short a trip to the U.S. to be able to attend Friday’s meeting, he said by phone. Pretoria-based PIC, which handles pension funds for South African state workers, has almost 1.9 trillion rand ($145 billion) in assets.

Dan Matjila

Photographer: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

The accusation against Matjila originates from a website said to be connected to the Gupta family, who are friends with President Jacob Zuma and the subject of allegations that they have used the relationship to influence cabinet appointments and state-contract awards, according to the Star. They want Matjila replaced with Brian Molefe, the former CEO of state power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the newspaper reported, citing people at the National Treasury that it didn’t identify.

The allegations “lack truth and substance,” the PIC said in an emailed statement. “We challenge the media to provide us with evidence that links any of the members of the PIC board with the Gupta family.”

Molefe is also a former head of the PIC and worked as deputy director general at the Treasury. He is currently legally challenging Eskom after the utility was ordered not to give him a pension payout by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. Zuma had considered him as a potential finance minister.

“There are no preconceived plans whatsoever to remove” Matjila, Deputy Finance Minister Sfiso Buthelezi, who is chairman of the PIC, said in an emailed statement. “These allegations are unfounded, baseless and are causing unnecessary panic over an internal matter at the PIC. The PIC board has indeed called for a meeting on Friday with the CEO, but this is to discuss and get clarification from him on internal matters.”

The Guptas have been the subject of a raft of South African media stories about their alleged corruption based on a trove of leaked emails. They and Zuma deny any wrongdoing. The saga has encompassed some global companies, with Bell Pottinger LLP, the U.K. public-relations firm, filing for administration this week after a report by the industry body found they had run a racially divisive social-media campaign on behalf of the family.

Matjila, a former maths professor, has led the PIC since December 2014. The money manager has 10 non-executive directors, eight of whom were appointed by former finance ministers Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene, who were ousted by Zuma, the PIC said.

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