Public Investment Corp. suspended acting CEO Matshepo More, throwing the South African manager of more than 2 trillion rand ($138 billion) in assets deeper into crisis.
The institution responsible for most South African government workers’ pension funds made the decision after claims of interference with an ongoing commission of inquiry, which is hearing testimony from former and current employees into allegations of wrongdoing. Ms. More is being moved aside after tensions at the top came to a head last month when nine directors resigned, including Chairman Mondli Gungubele, who is also deputy finance minister.
“The board deliberated on the matter and concluded that to ensure free participation of staff in the Commission of Inquiry process, to place Ms. Matshepo More on precautionary suspension with immediate effect,” Pretoria-based PIC said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Vuyani Hako, the executive head of properties, has been appointed in her place.
The judicial inquiry heard testimony earlier this month about a divisive leadership style adopted by Ms. More, the company’s former chief financial officer. Ms. More was placed in an acting capacity in November after the board removed Dan Matjila.
The money manager has been wracked by allegations of questionable investments in the bonds of cash-strapped state power producer Eskom Holdings SOC and the purchase of shares in an overvalued and little-known technology company. Ms. More and Mr. Matjila have not yet come to the commission.
The PIC’s board offered to step down once new directors have been appointed, saying the money manager has been “destabilized” by a series of claims, including against at least four board members.
In February, the commission stopped releasing the names of those testifying at the public hearings ahead of their appearance after death threats against key witnesses. The threats, which curbed the willingness of potential witnesses to testify at the inquiry, were reported to the police. The inquiry continues Wednesday in the capital, Pretoria.