BUSINESS LIVE / 27 JUNE 2018 - 05:06 / GIULIETTA TALEVI
Black-owned investment group Lebashe plans to sue United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa for what it called a "defamatory" and "malicious" open letter he wrote to the Presidency.
In the letter sent on Tuesday, Holomisa accused Lebashe and black economic empowerment infrastructure investment company Harith General Partners of being "in bed" with the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC’s) powerful CEO, Dan Matjila, to benefit from funding deals Matjila would swing its way.
Under fire: Bantu Holomisa, leader of the UDM, is accused of not giving Lebashe and Harith an opportunity to defend themselves before he sent his letter with fresh allegations to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding a probe into the PIC. Picture: LULAMILE FENI/DAILY DISPATCH
"We feel it’s horribly unfair what he’s done and it’s quite damaging to us, especially when you’re trying to build a financial services business where you need absolute credibility in the marketplace," said Lebashe executive director Warren Wheatley. He said the only funding Lebashe received from the PIC was to buy a block of Capitec shares in 2015, held by the PIC, a chunk of which it had already repaid. The PIC, said Lebashe, accounted for only 20% of its total funding, alongside other financial institutions.
In his letter, Holomisa wrote that Harith and Lebashe appeared to be the same company "dressed up differently, which seemingly serves as a twin portal to access PIC funds".
He queried whether Lebashe and Harith were not "front companies" for a "select group of super rich" to "siphon" money from the R2-trillion that the PIC manages on behalf of government employees.
Wheatley was stinging in his response. "For someone to write a letter like that without giving us the option to respond to the allegations, we find unethical and the whole thing just smacks of a hidden agenda … if you really cared that we would be shredding documents, why alert us on Twitter, for example?"
Harith and Lebashe, he said, were separate entities with no common shareholders although they do have common directors in Tshepo Mahloele, Harith’s CEO, and Jabu Moleketi, a former deputy finance minister under president Thabo Mbeki.
Asked why he had e-mailed the Presidency’s office, Holomisa said "the president is the only one who can amend the terms of reference for the state capture inquiry", which he wants to include investments made by the PIC under Matjila’s tenure, which spanned former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
"There’s no hidden agenda here," said Holomisa. "These people must understand that I’m not new in the administration and I’ve been a civil servant and I know what it means if pensions are to be depleted."
Earlier in June, Holomisa filed court papers demanding that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene suspend Matjila ahead of a disciplinary process, which the PIC is opposing.
Corporate affairs head Deon Botha said that submitting a letter with new allegations against the PIC "will not deter the PIC from defending itself before court in order to show that the UDM’s allegations are malicious, patently false and imminently contestable".
Lebashe has made a series of investments since striking the Capitec jackpot as a fully funded empowerment partner. It now owns 7.3% of Capitec’s shares and has since invested in companies such as challenger stock exchange 4AX, online credit marketplace RainFin and independent black-owned investment management business Aluwani Capital Partners.