Controversial media boss and businessman Iqbal Survé told the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on Tuesday he had no personal relationship with former chief executive Dan Matjila.

Under cross-examination by advocate Jannie Lubbe, Survé said he had no personal relationship with Matjila, who resigned last year amid an internal investigation into allegations of corruption at the state-owned asset manager.

“I am the chairman of a very large company that employs tens of thousands of people, I have relationships with auditors, lawyers, asset managers and bankers. Dr Matjila is a very important person in this country, he was the CEO of the PIC — one of the largest asset managers in the continent.
He is someone I have enormous respect for as a professional.
He is successful and was able to build the PIC from R400-billion to R2-trillion.”

The inquiry — chaired by Judge Lex Mpati — is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the investment corporation.

Survé told the commission the relationship with Matjila was “in the context of being chairman, not as a social friend”.

Before his cross-examination, Survé told the commission of his vision of black empowerment and up-skilling black people, adding that he did not do anything untoward. 

He told the commission that Sagarmatha, which houses technology and media interests, has not received any cash injection from the PIC, while lambasting media houses claiming they had halted the listing of the company through their reporting.

“The PIC made no investment in Sagarmatha. It has no financial exposure whatsoever,” he said.

A self-assured Survé told the commission that the company used its own money, R18-million preparing for the listing on the JSE.

“The listing did not proceed because the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) had raised an issue with one of the subsidiary companies – and I can only say that is disgraceful and in bad faith, but there is no basis for them to do it. They did it because our competitors, Tiso BlackStar, Business Day, eNCA and the others as they continue to do blatantly but negative propaganda in the public space where it forces the JSE to look for a reason to stop enlisting.”

Survé’s denial of a relationship with the former PIC appears to contradict a one-on-one interview with the Mail and Guardian in February this year, where he admitted to having a personal relationship with Matjila. “I consider him a friend, that is the first thing,” while he rejected assumptions that it was that friendship that influenced the PIC’s decision to invest in Ayo Technology Solutions.

Testimony before the commission has alluded to the relationship between Matjila and Surve.  Assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie, who was suspended over the controversial Ayo transaction,  testified in January that the relationship between Matjila and Survé could have influenced the Ayo deal.

Seanie told the commission of a meeting in April 2018, with the PIC’s listed equities team to discuss a transaction into Sagarmatha, during which Survé said: I consider him [Matjila] a good friend.”

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Seanie said he believed “this relationship was the genesis and primary driver of the PIC’s investment in Ayo”.

The PIC’s R4.3 billion investment in Ayo Technology Solutions — a company where Survé holds an indirect stake — was considered overvalued by employees of the investment corporation.

The PIC paid R43 per share for a 29% stake in Ayo a price which was identified as hugely overpriced by PIC investment staff. Survé said: “The PIC’s investment was a viable and remains viable.”

The cross-examination of Survé continues.