EFF leader Julius Malema has weighed in on Standard Bank’s decision to shut down accounts belonging to Sekunjalo-related companies, including Independent Media, and called for a mass mobilisation against the country’s banks.
The bank served the company with notice that its accounts would be shut by August 21 following a judgment by the Competition Appeal Court in its favour.
The bank had been initially forced to keep the company’s accounts running prior to the final judgment.
The interim judgment, which was granted in September last year, was due to come to an end in March this year but was extended by six months.
Shutting down the bank accounts will potentially mean that more than a thousand employees at Independent Media and other media companies in the Group, could find their jobs and livelihoods in jeopardy.
Independent Media is the group’s biggest employer and the country’s largest media conglomerate.
In a note to staff, Independent Media chief executive, Takudzwa Hove, said the matter was being urgently attended to by the company’s legal team as the group’s Constitutional rights had been infringed upon.
“The Group has maintained that this decision by the banks is political and is part of the broader political attack against the Sekunjalo Group, which by now is an indisputable fact. All of the media businesses, who are part of the wider Sekunjalo Group and collectively employ some 1600 people, and that bank with Standard Bank, were part of this application to the Competition Commission.
“The decision of the banks to shut the entire Sekunjalo Group-related accounts without the Sekunjalo Group having done anything wrong, is a blatant abuse of power by the banking sector, which is highly concentrated, with five banks controlling more than 90% of the banking assets of R5 trillion in SA today.”
Reacting to Standard Bank’s decision on Wednesday, Malema confirmed that he too had had his bank accounts closed and his teenage son was struggling to have an account opened. He accused the country’s banks of bullying.
“We need to mobilise South Africans against these banks. The day will come where action will be announced against these banks that have closed (accounts).
“Now they are fighting with Independent because they have a problem with Iqbal Survé (Sekunjalo chairman).
Iqbal is not part of the Stellenbosch mafia and, by extension, they are going to victimise ordinary workers by closing Independent’s bank accounts.
“That’s why the need for a commercial state bank is more urgent than ever before.
“It's extremely urgent; we are being harassed by the banks and we are being harassed by Afrikaner males who are owning these banks,” he said.
His comments echo Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s recent sentiments, when she decried the lack of control in the financing and banking system in South Africa, saying that “we are forced to kneel before five banks”.
Delivering a keynote address at the 9th BRICS Youth Summit in Durban recently, Dlamini Zuma said: “We need an alternative public banking and finance system beyond the dominant one, and we need it urgently. The New Development Bank is thus a step in the right direction, but we need to domesticate alternative banking as a matter of urgency.
“For example, in South Africa, we are forced to kneel before five banks. This represents some of the most concentrated banking systems in the world. The greater concentration among banking to the big five has clearly undermined accountability, hindered development, stifled competition, and passed on the cost burden to citizens.”