Voices

What was your motive? Bantu Holomisa responds to Tebogo Khaas

2019-07-26 00:55

Much could be said about some of Tebogo Khaas' views voiced in his opinion piece "Moral hypocrites"(City Press, July 14 2019).

It is ironic that he talks about "moral preachers" and what he thinks of them, only to preach his own morals. 

But let me contain my reaction to what he said about me and my testimony at the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety and maladministration at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

Specifically, to say I am overzealous and that I had “acted in haste” with “apparent reckless perseverance” – in publicly revealing information of the alleged conflict of interest involving Harith General Partners, Lebashe Investment and some connected individuals – is way off the mark.

It’s frankly insulting.

But, let me be a little “overzealous” again and remind Khaas and the public of what I said, and the questions I asked, about Harith and Lebashe.

In the main, my issue is around what appears to be a network of various roleplayers with connections between the PIC, Harith and Lebashe.

If one looks at it closely, one can see that it was not difficult to build personal empires if one had easy access to PIC cash.

Read: Moral hypocrites: We should be wary of politicians condemning the failings of others

At face value, there seems to be little distinction between Harith and Lebashe and they appear to share the same passages and maybe the same toilet facilities.

They even share the same legal team, which represented them both in court and at the Mpati commission.

It seems they simply set up a fund using the PIC funds/assets. Then they set up a separate asset management company and awarded themselves the management contract from the fund as well as a large shareholding in that asset manager for free.

There was no tender and there was no management fee negotiation.

In reality, if the fund was to be established, the asset management contract should have gone out to tender if it could not be managed by a state-owned enterprise such as the PIC.

The asset management could have been split-funded among a number of BEE asset managers for that matter, or specialists in the field, at competitive asset management fees.

Did the people who manage the money today have the skills to even tender for that appointment if it had been done at arm’s length?

What management fees are being paid today to Harith? Are those market related? What is the performance?

Tebogo Khaas

The Mpati commission would have to summon the PIC to explain this web of intrigue.

This is not rocket science. It takes a bit of reading.

With the information I had, one can only deduce that there are clear conflicts of interest between former deputy finance minister and Harith chairperson Jabu Moleketi, Harith chief executive Tshepo Mahloele, Warren Wheatly, Harith, Lebashe and their access to PIC funds. Such a clever and tangled web has been spun in an effort to fool, and obfuscate the inter-relationships, but they are there in my mind.

One of the most difficult tasks regarding dealing with the type of corruption that is alleged to have happened at the PIC is the sophisticated nature of the transactions.

Corruption can come in two forms – legal and illegal corruption.

Legal corruption occurs when the elite build a legal framework that protects corruption or manipulate existing legal frameworks without necessarily breaking the law.

The task faced by this commission is to unravel some of the transactions that have been seemingly structured following all the rules but with corrupt intent.

The financial benefits related to the PIC that accrue to the group (Mahloele, Moleketi and Wheatly) are worth billions of rand, different entities were used, names changed, but the same group of people seems to have unfettered access to the PIC funds.

Across the business network of the group more than R20 billion of PIC/Government Employees’ Pension Fund funds could be involved, either as assets under management, funding of deals or sales of BEE shares.

It will be irresponsible for the commission to ignore this network of beneficiaries; if the commission has the necessary tools a deeper forensic investigation to follow the money would be recommended.

The cloak of legality should not be used to deter investigations of corruption.

Appearance of legal corruption should be investigated as thorougly as explicit corruption.

The elite should not be given the benefit of the doubt due to the sophistication of their looting structures.

I leave all of this information in the capable minds of the public – make your own deductions and see whether it matches with my analyses of these allegations.

Lastly, I can assure Khaas that I did my homework and presented that to the Mpati commission. I didn’t just wake up one morning, deciding to bring the information to be investigated by the commission.

That is simply not my style. In addition, Khaas needs to understand that the commission, by its very nature, will take into consideration all the information submitted to it and verify its veracity.

Let us give the commission room to do its job and we will in the end see where the chips fall.

But I cannot help but wonder what Khaas was aiming to achieve. What was the motive?

Was he trying to sway public opinion to cast doubt on the work or credibility of the commission? Just asking.

Holomisa is leader of the United Democratic Movement

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March 29 2020