THE success of a business does not only depend on its ability to re-engineer itself but also on how the business has treated its staff and its employees. Absa may be well within its rights to take the route it has chosen, but spare a thought for that fisherman who labours for months to provide for his family. Picture: Supplied
THE success of a business does not only depend on its ability to re-engineer itself but also on how the business has treated its staff and its employees. Absa may be well within its rights to take the route it has chosen, but spare a thought for that fisherman who labours for months to provide for his family. Picture: Supplied

Are financial institutions robbing us of our freedom?

By Opinion Time of article published Apr 9, 2021

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Sizwe Dlamini

THE CONCEPT of collateral damage is often brought to the fore within the business world to describe the unintended damage left in the wake of an unusual action.

The plight of the employees of Premier Fishing comes to mind after reading a disturbing headline last week announcing Absa’s move to part ways with the black-owned company that has more than 1 000 people in its employ.

“Absa does a Gupta on Iqbal Survé, cuts off services to Sekunjalo-controlled companies,” reads the headline – obviously designed to imply some similarity to Sekunjalo-related companies and the Guptas’ operations.

While some may argue that the association in the headline with the Guptas is because of Absa’s move to close banking facilities, the reality is that there are numerous media reports perpetuating to create an association with the Guptas, which is way off the mark.

The reports aim to subliminally paint people of certain ethnic descent with the same brush and ultimately drive a narrative that all black business people are alike.

In its court papers, Absa says: “The Sekunjalo Group and Dr Survé have for at least the past two years been the subject of serious allegations of disreputable and unlawful conduct that has featured extensively in the public domain.”

Such news reports, spun to fit the narrative, have the potential of destroying a company and in the process putting thousands of breadwinners out of employment. The disregard for transformation that has been achieved by the group is blatant and the job losses will be written off as collateral damage.

To breathe some life into false claims the McCarthyism principle is put into effect where the first thing is to repeatedly publish allegations on several platforms in order to influence public perception.

The government and other entities in power then call for a probe into the allegations through the form of a commission of inquiry, which sets the tone and validates the allegations. Sekunjalo companies appeared before the Mpati Commission and were largely covered by the media.

Thereafter, regulatory authorities are called to action and Sekunjalo companies faced some JSE-related investigations and some bullying by the FSCA, among others.

Banks creditors and other financial institutions often refuse to do business with people under investigation or their associates. This casts people out and validates all allegations whether true or false.

All this is part of a deliberate strategy to confuse the public and bring down a business person and the company that controls Independent Media.

We cannot forget that Parliament’s standing committee on finance heard about an attempt to stop the sale of Independent Media to Sekunjalo with a last-ditch effort from a funder of the DA to offer R500 million to Sekunjalo to walk away from the deal.

Prior to that the South African National Editors’ Forum – whose membership largely comprises editors who are part of the plot to bring down Sekunjalo – played its card by effectively asking the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to take control of Independent Media away from Sekunjalo and its chairperson.

Absa may be within its rights to take the route it has chosen, but spare a thought for that fisherman who labours for months on end to provide for his family.

If you look at the behind-the-scenes activities of some of the banks in the country, then perhaps the call by some political parties to nationalise the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) makes a fascinating proposition.

There are private banks in the country that still marginalise the black majority with regard to raising capital and the SARB as presently constituted has very limited power in this regard.

The billion-dollar question is in the pre-democratic negotiations did a blunder not occur whereby the freedom groups “forgave” too many sins of the previous regime, including its institutions, thereby hindering transformation?

Did the pro-freedom negotiators give away too many concessions so that some key institutional and private operators are still active today, thus presenting a huge stumbling block to those seeking “radical economic transformation”, and a better government? | Sizwe Dlamini is editor of Independent Media's Investigations Unit.

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