Ex-South Africa pension chief Oliphant quits renewables infrastructure start-up

Figure who chaired Code for Responsible Investing in SA quits JSE-listed firm

John Oliphant, the former Principal Executive Officer at South Africa’s giant Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF), has resigned as managing director of the infrastructure investment firm he co-founded just over a year ago.

Oliphant, who was dismissed from the GEPF in 2014 following an inquiry into alleged misconduct, set up Gaia Investment Partners early in 2015 with partners Botha Schabort and Leon De Wit, and Fieldstone Africa, a pan-African advisory firm.

Oliphant was chief executive at the firm which formally launched in March 2015 and which listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as a special purpose acquisition vehicle (SPAC) last November. Its focus is on the energy, transport, and water and sanitation sectors.

Cape Town-based Gaia said in a filing that Oliphant has resigned “to pursue his own business interests”. Chairman De Wit would assume Oliphant’s duties on an interim basis and Gaia said its daily operations were “unaffected”.

It follows a series of announcements by Gaia that it was in negotiations, which if successful could have a “material effect” on its shares and that shareholders were advised to “exercise caution” ahead of a full announcement.A report in Mineweb earlier this month claimed Gaia was trading below the cash on its balance sheet and quoted Oliphant as saying potential deals were in the pipeline and that further announcements were imminent. Days later he departed the business.

Before joining Gaia Oliphant chaired the committee that drafted the Code for Responsible Investing in South Africa (CRISA) and sat on the then Advisory Council of the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment.
He was instrumental in the GEPF’s responsible investment policies and the setting up of the PRI South African Network as well as sitting on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange SRI Index Advisory Committee.

Meanwhile, the South African government-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC), has described as “excessive” a payment made to former MTN Group chief executive officer Sifiso Dabengwa, who resigned after a record Nigerian fine, according to reports.

“PIC has communicated to MTN management its strong opposition to what we see as gross misuse of shareholder funds,” the Pretoria-based fund firm was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.