27 September 2017

South Africa: Pensions at PIC Safe

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has assured South Africans that pensions at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) are safe and government has no intention of taking the money for unscrupulous means.

"I want to assure every South African, every pension holder that their pensions are safe and there is absolutely no attempt to dig into their pensions for reasons that are unscrupulous," said Minister Gigaba on Tuesday.

The Minister's assurance was echoed by PIC non-executive director Sibu Zulu who said the PIC will not be reckless with government pensions.

"When issues emerge in the media they worry our clients. I want to ensure our clients that we have every intention to protect their funds and make proper investment choices," Zulu said.

The Minister and the PIC held a media briefing in Pretoria following an urgent meeting with PIC board members. This followed media reports that National Treasury was putting pressure on the PIC to bail out various state-owned enterprises (SOEs), especially an amount of R100 billion for South African Airways.

The PIC is one of the largest investment managers in Africa managing assets of over R1.857 trillion which are mainly government employees' pension funds.

It is a registered financial services provider which is wholly owned by the South African government, with the Minister of Finance as shareholder representative.

It invests funds on behalf of public sector entities, based on investment mandates set by each of these clients and approved by the Financial Services Board (FSB).

Minister Gigaba was joined by his Deputy Minister Sfiso Buthelezi who is also the PIC board chairman and PIC CEO Dan Matjila.

Dismissing the media reports of his involvement, the Minister said he took a dim view of the news reports as they dragged his name into the mud.

The Minister said he personally has not attempted to get involved in the PIC in any way, unless through the regulated channels already in place.

"I have personally not attempted in any way to get myself involved with the operation of the PIC, unless officially," he said, adding that it was important to nip these issues in the bud and give assurances to worried pension holders.

Minister Gigaba said the meeting with the PIC Board was important as he had asked several questions that he needed clarity on, including whether any board members were out to capture the PIC or replace the CEO or if there had been a request for R100 billion to fund SOEs.

Showing a united front both Treasury and the PIC said there was no such request for the money.

Deputy Minister Buthelezi rejected allegations that some of them wanted to remove Matjila.

Matjila, meanwhile, described the media reports as distasteful and inaccurate and "designed to drive a wedge" between him and the Minister. He dismissed the claim that the PIC takes instructions from Treasury and said he first heard of the R100 billion bailout through the media

"We don't take investment instructions from Treasury. We have not been approached in the case of the R100 billion," he said, adding that he would lodge a formal complaint with the Sunday Times newspaper regarding the article they had written on the alleged bailout.

National Treasury Director General Dondo Mogajane said they had at no point asked the PIC for an advance to fund SAA.

He did, however, confirm that they are looking at various options to help SAA which has approached the PIC on two occasions.

The first was in May for a loan which was turned down because it did not meet its mandate requirements. The second occasion was when it was approached by SAA to consider buying its Telkom stake of which Mogajane said it was unable to take it all due to investment parameters.

Other funding options for the SOE, he said, would be discussed in Cabinet this week.

Mogajane said issues with regards to how much SAA and other SOEs need for funding will be revealed in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in October.

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