Sekunjalo Group subsidiary Ayo has asked the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance (Scof) to investigate the JSE, the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, unnamed banking institutions, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and unnamed officials at National Treasury.
The request was part of a lengthy presentation by Sekunjalo that was described by one MP as being riddled with conspiracy and fantasy.
Information and communication technology group Ayo, which is part of Sekunjalo and was listed on the JSE in December 2017 with a R4.3 billion investment from the PIC, told members of Parliament on Wednesday that the named organisations had all played “a hidden hand in the cancellation of contracts, banking facilities and support by customers and service providers to Ayo”. It was for this reason, said Ayo, that it wanted Scof to investigate them.
Ayo made the request during a parliamentary portfolio committee hearing intended to get response from various affected parties to the recommendations made by the Mpati Commission of Inquiry.
The Mpati Commission had been appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in October 2018 to look into allegations of impropriety at the PIC, which manages pension funds on behalf of millions of South African state-sector employees.
In addition to Sekunjalo, which also controls the Independent Media Group following the PIC-funded acquisition in 2013, the committee heard from Matome Maponya Investment Holdings (MMI). MMI had secured a 54% stake in poultry producer Daybreak Farms in 2015 when the PIC provided R1.2 billion funding to rescue the “distressed asset”.
EFF calls for clarity, and responses
Floyd Shivambu, deputy president and chief whip of the EFF, told the meeting that both Maponya and Sekunjalo had failed to address the matters at hand and had instead focused on “talking politics behind the problems”. He suggested that a template be drafted clarifying the issues that had to be addressed and that the parties return within a week with their response to those issues.
“We need to know how much did the PIC invest with Maponya and, with regard to Ayo, what were the conditions of the loans and equity that was provided and are those loans being serviced,” said Shivambu.
The ANC’s Noxolo Abraham queried why Sekunjalo had suggested that the breakdown in the relationship of trust with the PIC was due to Independent Media’s exposure of wrongdoing, in particular in relation to PPE procurement corruption.
“PPE is a recent scandal, there has been a cumulative breakdown of trust for some time,” said Abraham.
She added: “We need to avoid conspiracy theories unrelated to the Mpati Commission.”
She also described Sekunjalo’s claim that the South African News Editors Forum (Sanef) had ulterior motives in its dealings with Sekunjalo as sounding conspiratorial.
The DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis described the lengthy presentation led by Sekunjalo chair Iqbal Survé as “a tissue of conspiracies and fantasy” and said that not once did Survé attempt to respond to the findings and recommendations of the Mpati Commission.
“You use conspiracies and allegations of racism to explain away everything but it doesn’t work,” said Hill-Lewis. He said he agreed that SA should have a diversity of media views but that the Independent was failing – not because of some conspiracy, but because it had become “utterly irrelevant”.
“The reason your media company is failing is because your readers are deserting you,” Hill-Lewis said to Survé.
Hill-Lewis wanted to know what stage the PIC’s various court actions against Sekunjalo are at, and whether the country’s largest fund manager intends relaunching the preservation-of-assets order against Sekunjalo. When Moneyweb later questioned the PIC on this matter, a spokesperson replied: “We’re attending to this query.”