Independent Media, Iqbal Survé and why greater transparency is needed at the PIC

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following several controversial investments exposed mainly by investigative group amaBhungane.

PIC share offers involving Ayo Technologies and Sagarmatha Technologies - both linked to Independent Media executive chair Dr Iqbal Survé - were reported to be at an inflated price.

This resulted in allegations by Independent Media that competing media houses plotted to thwart the listing of Survé's Sagarmatha Technologies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

amaBhungane journalists and others have been accused of running a disinformation campaign, equivalent to Stratcom's propaganda campaign during apartheid.

Read: Sanef says 'Stratcom' accusations mark sad day for journalism

amaBhungane investigative journalist Sam Sole says the imprudent decisions made by the PIC are evidence that greater transparency and accountability is needed.

He argues full disclosure is needed around transactions involving Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) money, which is managed by the PIC.

Also read: 'If anybody is involved in a Stratcom-like project it's Independent Newspapers'

We came to this story about Iqbal Survé and his companies, essentially, by looking at the PIC.

Sam Sole, joint managing partner at amaBhungane

PIC is this 600 pound gorilla in the economy. It's the biggest investor in the economy.

Sam Sole, joint managing partner at amaBhungane

But the accountability and transparency about how PIC makes decisions, and who it invests with, is significantly wanting.

Sam Sole, joint managing partner at amaBhungane

When you have a cookie jar the size of this GEPF - nearly two trillion - its very tempting for government to dip in a hand or two.

Terry Bell, former Independent Newspaper journalist and Inside Labour columnist

Read more: Questions raised over PIC's involvement in Iqbal Survé companies

Labour columnist Terry Bell says Survé is a strange character whose takeover at Independent Media has raised questions about editorial independence.

Iqbal Survé is delusional.

Terry Bell, former Independent Newspaper journalist and Inside Labour columnist

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) says it will write to the PIC and to the management of Independent Media in order to protect press freedom.

An owner of a publication should never have a say on what goes into those pages and should never use those pages to put forth their own agenda.

Katy Katopodis, Sanef secretary general

Political analyst Vukani Mde says the PIC's mandate to protect and manage its funds and boost transformation is critically important.

Mde argues that Treasury, Parliament and shareholders (labour unions) must do a better job to hold the PIC to account.

We do have an incredible obligation to ensure that the PIC sticks to its mandate... and does not lose workers' money on these investments.

Vukani Mde, political analyst

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) says it wants to deploy its workers as directors on the PIC broad.

The federation's general secretary Dennis George says this will help improve due diligence and communication.

We want to put worker directors on the boards where the PIC directs money.

Dennis George, General Secretary at Fedusa

Efforts to contact the PIC and Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele for comment were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Dr Iqbal Survé has made a commitment to respond and be interviewed in the near future.

Take a listen to the riveting conversation:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Independent Media, Iqbal Survé and why greater transparency is needed at the PIC


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