South Africa: the PIC management fund in turmoil -

After the accusations of political interference by a whistleblower against four of its members, the board of directors of the largest asset manager of the continent has resigned en bloc. An inquiry was opened at the request of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The South African public corporation PIC, which manages 145 billion of assets, mainly on behalf of the government employees' pension fund, is under investigation ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, after accusations from a whistleblower and published in late January in the South African press, including Business Day.

According to these claims, four of the nine members of the company's board of directors would be involved in wrongdoing. Following this affair, the members of the board of directors resigned en bloc, denouncing in their letter of departure, quoted by the Financial Times (FT), a "concerted effort to discredit them" and an "attempt to plunge the institution into a state of paralysis". Nevertheless, they remain in office until the appointment of a new South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. A decision that should take place next week, says the British daily.

Good reputation

PIC executive director Dan Matjila, meanwhile, resigned in November 2018, after allegations that the institution has invested in transactions involving figures related to the ruling African National Congress (ANC). "I have never been partisan or leaning towards any faction of a political party," he said in his letter of resignation.

PIC, which controls more than a tenth of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, had until then appeared to escape the scandals that have enamelled the Zuma era

PIC, which controls more than one-tenth of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange through stakes in publicly traded companies - notably in the company Naspers et the Anglo American miner - had so far seemed to escape scandals that enamelled the Zuma era. The company, however, left some feathers in the collapse of the giant Steinhoff distribution, following an accounting scandal.

The inquiry initiated by President Ramaphosa also examined PIC's support for Iqbal Survé, a media mogul linked to the former head of state Jacob Zuma, through transactions such as the repurchase of a supposedly grossly overvalued share issue, reports the Financial Times, stating that Iqbal Survé "denies having committed a reprehensible act".

Supporting state development goals

For some analysts, such implications point to PIC's inability to properly review board-level transactions, particularly since its chairman is none other than Mondli Gungubele, Deputy Minister of Finance (and resigned) . "The voice of the politicians is much more important than it should be," he said. FT Khaya Sithole, Independent Financial Analyst and Chartered Accountant. "It is inevitable that politically influenced offers come to the table. If you administer 2 000 billion rand [129 billion euros], you will receive many requests, including from political affiliates. "

The policy is, however, linked to the mandate of the ICP, which includes a clause in support of the State's development objectives, such as the rebalancing of one of the most unequal societies in the world inherited from apartheid. In addition, the CIP has become the lender of last resort to troubled state-owned enterprises, notably Eskom.

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