War rages over who must pull strings at PIC

President in a corner after appointing Khoza

Pressure is mounting on President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign a bill amending how the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Africa’s largest asset manager, is run amid a scramble for its control.

Documents from the ANC’s recent national executive committee (NEC) meeting and the gathering of the party’s top brass in July show that there was a strong push back against government’s decision to appoint a chairperson of the PIC who comes from the private sector instead of the deputy finance minister, as per the cabinet decision of 2008.

There were concerns that Ramaphosa’s administration appointed former Nedbank chairperson Reuel Khoza to be the interim PIC chair, instead of deputy finance minister David Masondo assuming the role as per the convention.

The PIC manages R2-trillion in assets, mostly from the Government Employees Pension Fund and is the biggest investor on the JSE.

This makes the chair of the institution one of the most powerful people in the country. The bill sitting before Ramaphosa aligns with the current tradition of the deputy minister being PIC chair.

But if signed as is, it would put the president in a tight corner given Khoza’s appointment. An NEC member told Sunday World this week that the ANC national executive supported the bill in its meeting late last month.

“The ANC NEC supports the bill. Are you [Ramaphosa] going to defy the NEC? The argument is that doing away with the 2008 decision will set a wrong precedent. Of course people want to control the PIC for their agendas,” said the NEC member.

There were fears among ANC groupings that allowing a private person control would disadvantage them from controlling the PIC, which is a major source of power and patronage.

In July, the ANC NEC flagged Khoza’s appointment in June. “The ANC noted with concern the departure from the past practice and a 2008 cabinet decision that the PIC should be chaired by the deputy finance minister, with the recent appointment of a chairperson of the PIC from the private sector.

The NEC decided that the matter should be taken up by ANC deployees.” In a political overview to the July NEC meeting, Ramaphosa said the issue of the PIC chair was raised.

Alf Lees, the DA’s spokesperson on finance when the bill was passed, said they hoped it is returned to parliament to ensure the PIC is not chaired by a politician or deputy finance minister to avoid political interference.

By George Matlala

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