26/09/2017 17:22 SAST | Updated 26/09/2017 17:22 SAST

R100bn SOE Bailout From Pension Fund: Gigaba Denies Everything

"We read about these things in the media," his deputy said.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and his team have shut down reports that his ministry is seeking billions from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to bail out ailing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

In his meeting with the PIC on Tuesday, Gigaba said he raised questions on whether its board members were out to capture the entity, whether there were attempts to get rid of its CEO Dan Matjila, and whether there had been requests for R100-billion from pensioners' funds to finance SOEs.

"I indicated to the board that, to my knowledge, there is no R100-billion we have requested from the PIC... It is important at all times that we act in the best interest of the pension holders to protect their assets," Gigaba said at a press briefing afterwards.

"We are not going to be reckless with regards to their pensions and wreck their lifelong investments."

National Treasury deputy-general, Dondo Mogajane, said it was looking at "various options" to recapitale SAA.

"As we are assessing options, one critical option was the selling of Telkom shares. The PIC is not investing in SAA, the PIC is not buying shareholding in SAA," Mogajane said.

Gigaba's right-hand man, Sfiso Buthelezi, also pitched in.

"An allegation is being made that some people want to remove [Matjila]. The board of directors of the PIC rejects that allegation with the contempt it deserves," Buthelezi said.

Matjila was also present at the briefing, sitting alongside Gigaba as he spoke.

When he was given a turn to speak, Matjila said an article that appeared in The Sunday Times –- which quoted him saying that there is a political ploy to oust him – was "distasteful, inaccurate and designed to drive a wedge" between him and Gigaba.

He said he was now seeking a legal opinion on the matter.

"The issue of R100 billion, we have not been approached, we read it in the media," Matjila said.

The PIC acts an asset manager, handling mostly the Government Employees' Pension Fund (GEPF). The GEPF is Africa's largest pension fund: it has more than 1.2-million active members, in excess of 400 000 pensioners and beneficiaries, and assets worth more than R1.6-trillion.

Last week, media outlets reported that Treasury was pressuring the PIC to provide as much as R100-billion to fund struggling SOEs.

This came after Gigaba told the National Assembly that it is considering various options to recapitalise SAA, which includes using funds from the PIC.

PIC boss Dan Matjila was last week hauled before a special board meeting after allegations of financial impropriety emerged in the media. But Matjila denied the allegations, saying he is being targeted by people who want to have him removed in a bid to take control of the PIC's extensive funds.