United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa has been interdicted from continuing to allege that BEE investment firm Lebashe Investment Group and prominent businessmen might be involved in corruption at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).
Judge Vivian Tlhapi on Monday granted the order against Holomisa in the High Court in Pretoria after an urgent application by the Lebashe Investment Group, former deputy finance minister Phillip Moleketi, Harith General Partners, Harith Fund Managers and businessmen Warren Wheatley and Tshepo Mahloele.
The interdict will remain in place pending the institution of a damages claim for defamation against the UDM and its leader, but will lapse if this is not done within a month.
The judge handed down the order without giving reasons for her ruling, but said she would provide her reasons “soon”.
Holomisa told journalists he was surprised by the order and first had to study the court’s reasons, but intended to appeal the ruling.
The applicants turned to court after Holomisa sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa in which he claimed several companies and individuals were involved in the looting of the PIC and urged him to widen the terms of reference of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture to include an investigation into the PIC.
In the letter, Holomisa alleged “possible” corruption at the PIC “could potentially make the Gupta family’s alleged capture of the state look like chump change” and claimed the “iceberg of corruption” aimed at “fleecing the PIC of billions of rands” was “rising day by day”.
He named a list of companies and individuals he said had links with the PIC, adding that it made for “uncomfortable reading” when one considered the possibility of “a very opaque scheme that will put at risk the Government Employees’ Pension Fund”.
The PIC, which the largest investment manager in Africa with nearly R2 trillion under management, is wholly owned by the South African government and invests funds on behalf of public sector entities.
Wheatley, a director of the Lebashe Investment Group, alleged in court papers the majority of the “explosive and inflammatory allegations” in Holomisa’s letter were plainly false, “manifestly absurd and sensationalist” and clearly defamatory.
He accused Holomisa and the UDM of “recklessly abusing their power” and said it appeared the UDM leader believed himself entitled to degrade and insult them even further and riding roughshod over their rights.
Holomisa, who opposed the application, defended the contents of his letter and said the facts cried out for an in-depth forensic investigation.
“The picture that emerges is a complex structure of entities established by employees of the PIC who, after resigning from the PIC, subsequently join the firm entities and derive immense financial benefits from those entities.
“… Investment decisions taken by PIC employees appear to be intended to benefit the very same employees once they have left the PIC,” he said.