Sygnia CEO Magdalena Franciszka “Magda” Wierzycka, took the opportunity to fire a salvo against Iqbal Survé amid the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Supplied
Sygnia CEO Magdalena Franciszka “Magda” Wierzycka, took the opportunity to fire a salvo against Iqbal Survé amid the devastating Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Supplied

Weaponising Covid-19 in a bid to destroy Iqbal Survé

By Sizwe Dlamini Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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CAPE TOWN – The South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) this week said it stood in solidarity with colleagues from Independent Media – and all media entities facing difficult financial times.

This, after SANEF saw letters that were sent to Independent Media and African News Agency (ANA) staff and journalists that advised employees they might face salary cuts due to the impact that Covid-19 had on the media business.

Meanwhile, Branko Brkic’s Daily Maverick has opted to use the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on media businesses, to intensify its relentless attack on Independent Media and in particular, its chairperson, Dr Iqbal Survé.

Daily Maverick incorrectly insinuates the salary cuts were as a result of funding from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) drying up after the release of the report of the PIC Commission of Inquiry – which, by the way, made no adverse findings against Independent Media and Sekunjalo-related companies.

SANEF also recently raised concerns around the financial challenges faced by the Mail & Guardian.

SANEF said it believed that the importance of journalists and journalism in South Africa – and across the world – has never been stronger. Journalists are playing a critical frontline role in keeping the nation abreast of all developments around Covid-19.

“We reiterate our appeal to members of the public, corporates, donors and government to support the media industry and journalism during this critical time – through the payment of subscriptions, membership fees, donations and sponsorships. We call on corporates and government to continue to advertise,” said SANEF.

Sygnia founder and chief executive, Magdalena Franciszka Wierzycka, also took the opportunity to fire a salvo against Survé amid the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

Wierzycka tweeted this week: “Given we need money from all sources right now retrieving R4.3bn from Ayo should be right up there. I debated publishing this exchange with the JSE in May 2019. But what the heck. Since then more money has been stripped out. So if this motivates some action now it is worth it.”

It really doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a co-ordinated attack.

Along with her tweet, Wierzycka published photos of WhatsApp Messages she sent to former JSE chief executive, Nicky Newton-King, where she alleges that Survé was using AYO Technology Solutions’ bank account as his personal piggy bank.

“Whatever the issues between us please demand that Ayo’s Feb 2019 interims be audited. Iqbal is using Ayo’s bank account as his personal piggy bank. One transfer after another. They need to look at the General Ledger,” reads one of the WhatsApp messages sent by Wierzycka to Newton-King.

Wierzycka is the same person who is facing attempted extortion charges for allegedly approaching former AEEI chief executive to buy back the shares that AEEI, and its majority shareholder, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, have in Sygnia, at a substantially lower price. Failing which, she allegedly threatened to continue to write negative stories about Sekunjalo, AEEI and its associated company, AYO.

Of note is that the Sekunjalo Group is one of the biggest outside shareholders in Sygnia and the largest black shareholder in Sygnia.

Collectively, the three entities own about 3.5 million shares in Wierzycka’s Sygnia. At the time of the alleged attempted extortion, the undue benefit to Wierzycka would have amounted to millions of rand.

The world is at war with Covid-19, which has negatively impacted all sectors of the global economy, but Wierzycka and company see this as an opportunity to bring down a group of companies – including a media entity that employs more than 1 500 people – just to get ahead of the competition.

Wierzycka came to South Africa at the age of about 13 from Poland, with nothing but a suitcase and rose to become a young billionaire. Other South Africans toil all their lives and never get to see even a million.

While her stance on fighting corruption is welcome, to ruin the lives of hard-working people in the wake of a global pandemic in a bid to settle a personal score with Survé, is absurd, to say the least.

Sekunjalo has undertaken to co-operate with the recommendations stipulated in the PIC Commission’s report. President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that the report was a high-level roadmap on the way forward and he said different state institutions, including the PIC board, would further communicate the details of the implementation plans.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africa to unite in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. But Wierzycka and company choose not to heed the President’s call and opt instead, to push their own agenda, riding on the wave of a global threat.

Even Wierzycka’s usually ardent Twitter followers expressed serious concern about her intentions.

Comments on her thread:

The interim audits were performed and the auditors released clean audits for all the years since AYO's listing.

The president has praised the efforts of South Africans in the fight against Covid-19, noting that, despite fear and panic, the nation has stood firm in unity.

Less can be said about Wierzycka and company, whose obsession with bringing a black businessman down, undermines national efforts to fight this pandemic, to salvage the economy, to save jobs, and for all of South Africa to have a fighting chance to develop, post-Covid-19.


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