Previous witness statements regarding harrowing mistreatment at the hands of former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dan Matjila have come under the spotlight at the commission looking into alleged impropriety at the state asset manager.
Matjila has been at the heart of several witness testimonies which have brought to the fore allegations that he spearheaded a culture of fear and intimidation during his time as the corporation’s CEO.
Matjila stepped down in November last year.
On Tuesday, during his testimony before the commission — chaired by Justice Lex Mpati — Matjila admitted that there may have been staff issues at the PIC but he was not made aware of these issues.
“I have tried my best to tell my colleagues that whenever they have problems, they should tell me. I’ve made it clear even in staff meetings that I would like to hear what is troubling them,” he said.
Matjila said that promotions and other recruitment processes at the PIC were a sore point for many employees at the asset manager and often left many feeling aggrieved.
“Some people don’t like to be subjected to interview processes when they feel that the position is actually theirs,” he testified.
The former CEO told the commission that before he left PIC he was in the process of probing the details of the demotion of former head of communications, Nomzamo Petje.
Petje told the commission in March that she was demoted ,despite having 20 years experience at the PIC, to the position of environmental, social and governance. A position which she was unqualified for.
She said that she accepted the demotion because of the culture of “fear and victimisation” PIC, adding that she feared losing her job if she opposed management’s decision.
Matjila pointed to the restructuring of the PIC for Petje’s demotion saying that “over time we started looking for solutions for her and when I left or when I was asked to go I was in the process of finding a solution for her. I don’t know what happened after I left.”
Matjila further shrugged off allegations of favouritism against him and the PIC’s former chief financial officer and now suspended acting CEO, Matshepo More.
“I believe I have given my colleagues a fair chance in terms of opportunities that are available,” he explained.
On other governance challenges at the PIC during his time as the chief investment officer six years ago, Matjila said he fell out with the then finance minister, Pravin Gordha after he refused to support Chilean drug manufacturer, CFR Pharmaceuticals, from acquiring Adcock Ingram in 2014. At the time, Matjila says that he was accused of blocking foreign direct investment.
He added that his refusal to support the deal promoted Public Enterprises Minister Gordhan to institute a governance review at the PIC. He said this was done outside of the PIC’s approval process and procurement practices
Matjila continued, saying that there was a “clear meddling” of the shareholder in the day-to-day running of the PIC. He said believed that the governance review was established to target him specifically.
“Once I had an opportunity to see the terms of reference of this governance review it became clear that it was targeted at me. The issues that were going to be tested and the people that were going to be interviewed made it clear to me that this was more of a personal vendetta than just a governance review,” he said.