On Sunday February 17, 2019, the Sunday Times published a three-page "story" that sought to cast doubt about the veracity of the AYO Technology Solutions Limited (AYO) listing, Independent Media and, some of the companies I am involved in, myself – personally along with my family - and colleagues.
By their own admission, they could not find anything to link me to any wrongdoing – because there is nothing. Yet, those employed by Tiso Blackstar (owners of Business Day, Sunday Times and such), along with a number of writers who were formerly employed by Independent Newspapers, continue with their campaign to discredit Independent Media, myself, companies I am associated to and now, my family.
So why this ongoing onslaught?
A good question. The answer: I’m not sure anyone will ever truly know why, but one summation is that while Independent Media continues to have a strong following, broader more representative narrative and wide distribution network, pre-1994 media will remain threatened.
Several accusations have been levelled against me. One being that I have used PIC funding for my own personal gain. As confirmed to the Sunday Times (and others) time and again, I have never used any PIC funds, ever, for any personal investment of any nature. This is a deliberate lie and distortion of the facts by the Sunday Times.
Since the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, neither the PIC or our Chinese partners (Interacom) have put in additional funding into Independent Media. On the contrary, Sekunjalo and my family trust, are the sole funders of Independent Media for the benefit of its shareholders, including the PIC.
To date, we have repaid the PIC and Interacom more than R500m. We have invested extensively throughout Africa and used certain capital for growth, acquisitions as well as philanthropic purposes.
For the record, companies in which the Sekunjalo Group have invested, received total dividends, fee income and revenue from disposal of businesses during 2017-2018, in excess of R700m. Of these dividends, R400m was reinvested in acquisitions and growth capital for group companies, equities, shares, properties and technology companies, R230 million was used to support Independent Media and its associate businesses and R40 million was used to support social impact investments and philanthropic activities. This excludes any dividends from AYO Technologies.
According to AYO's JSE-published annual financial statements in August 2018, AYO has cash on hand of R4.3bn. If working capital, group profits and funds held for acquisitions are added, I am certain that AYO would have cash on hand exceeding R4,5bn.
This rubbishes the lies and inaccurate information that the Sunday Times and others are trying to peddle.
It is disgraceful to suggest that AYO funds have been used by myself or any other person in the Sekunjalo Group, for their personal benefit. This is nothing but a blatant attempt by the Sunday Times to tarnish my image and that of the Sekunjalo Group, and to create the public perception that our companies are corrupt and using public money for nefarious deeds. It is truly disgraceful.
Despite dedicating almost three full pages to myself and Sekunjalo, the Sunday Times could not produce a single fact to prove that I used public money for personal benefit. Tucked amongst the garbage was this admission: “The Sunday Times has no established link between the AYO funding and the property purchases." The Sunday Times knows that no link exists but its intention is simply to create a perception of corruption.
It appears evident that the Sunday Times is leading a campaign to cripple Independent Media for its benefit. This is a campaign in which Sunday Times, Business Day, certain journalists and columnists from other media houses and external parties, are collaborating to create the perception of wrong-doing.
This is so Independent Media is broken away from Sekunjalo. If this happens, it will lead to the collapse of an important media house, the unemployment of at least 1500 people and take us back to the days of apartheid where the media remained untransformed.
This is the real agenda.
Sunday Times has no facts to support their assertion that I or Sekunjalo have done anything wrong. Instead, they build a mountain of innuendo, perception and disinformation at the expense of my person, my family and my group companies. This is disgraceful and reminiscent of the apartheid era Stratcom strategies which were used to destroy people who fought for social justice.
There are hidden hands behind this campaign which is designed to shape public perception to the benefit of the Sunday Times and other media.
The Sekunjalo Group is a highly successful business with more than 200 investments.
I have always acted with integrity. I have focused on black excellence and transformation within a framework of non-racialism. It is true that I am different to other business people, but this difference is linked to my values of deep empowerment and disrupting the status quo. It is this disruption which is feared the most by the detractors that spend considerable ink to defame me, my family and my companies.
I will not be intimidated or cowed into submission. I will not give up. The truth will always emerge. It will validate that Sekunjalo will not be found wanting in its business practices.
I am strengthened by the commitment and support of our employees, our friends, our stakeholders and associates who fully understand that this is a campaign designed to roll back the gains of real economic transformation over the last two decades.
It is clear to me that our struggle continues.
These purveyors and charlatans of corruption are using the current environment in South Africa as a smoke screen to act against Sekunjalo. We are on record as supporting the initiatives which have been created to root out corruption at every level. But we will not allow faceless, nameless, powerful individuals who want to hide their corruption to use Sekunjalo, Independent Media and AYO as a deflection.
I am confident that the real corruption will soon emerge, including the collusion between parties to frame an ethical, successful black business in order to hide the corruption that exists within the upper echelons of our society.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are victims of a concerted media campaign designed to negatively influence public perception against us, we remain steadfast in our resolve to pursue legal action against these forces which include the journalists, editors, columnists and others that continue to perpetuate these lies and defame our good name.
We are confident we will be vindicated.
* Dr Iqbal Survé is founder and chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and executive chairman of Independent Media.