In a previous Scof meeting, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni urged Independent Media, AYO Technologies and the PIC to find an amicable resolution to their dispute. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA) Archives
In a previous Scof meeting, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni urged Independent Media, AYO Technologies and the PIC to find an amicable resolution to their dispute. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA) Archives

Parliament affords PIC time to respond to Independent Media and AYO presentations

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 18, 2021

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Cape Town - Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance (Scof) on Wednesday resolved to afford the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) an opportunity to respond to a voluntary presentation made by Independent Media and AYO Technologies.

“The general agreement we have is another engagement where we afford the PIC enough time to prepare for responses. They will have time to respond to issues raised by Independent Media and Ayo Technologies, as well as issues raised by the members,” committee chairperson Joe Maswanganyi said.

He added that their responsibility was to exercise oversight on the executive and its organs.

“It would be in the best interests of both the borrower and lender if they can find amicable solutions to deal with any challenges they have. What is at stake is workers’ pensions,” Maswanganyi said.

“If parties can find amicable solutions to the challenges they have, we would welcome that as Parliament.

“I believe the borrowers will show cause that they are prepared to pay money they borrowed from the PIC. The PIC has a responsibility to ensure they get the money they have lent to different businesses,” he said.

Maswanganyi made the statement when the committee resolved to arrange another meeting to allow the PIC an opportunity to respond to presentations made by Independent Media, AYO Technology Solutions and businessman Kholofelo Maponya.

The trio had made requests to raise certain issues regarding the PIC, which is involved in litigation with them.

This came after a previous Scof meeting with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in which he urged Independent Media, AYO Technologies and the PIC to find an amicable resolution to their dispute.

Briefing the committee, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings chairman Dr Iqbal Survé thanked the committee for affording them an opportunity to make a presentation.

Survé told Scof that the PIC had never invested in Sekunjalo Investment Holdings as previously suggested by Mboweni.

“We have written to the PIC numerous times asking them to correct that misrepresentation. The PIC invested in Independent Media and a consortium of groupings called Sekunjalo Independent Media – now renamed Independent Media Consortium.

“The PIC has no investment, no loans, absolutely zero with Sekunjalo Investment Holdings,” he said.

AYO Technology Solutions chairperson Wallace Mgoqi also welcomed the opportunity to make the presentation, before narrating the history and growth of the company.

Mgoqi said a smear campaign against AYO was launched in March 2018, and the company was caught up in the battle at the PIC between the different factions.

He also said the PIC instituted litigation against AYO, which was hopeful that the pension company would work with it to resolve outstanding matters.

“Ultimately, AYO and the PIC have to work together to protect the value of the investment. Litigation is costly, protracted and adversarial and the outcome is win or lose,” he said.

Mgoqi asked Scof to normalise the relationship as the PIC was a shareholder of AYO, so that AYO could fulfil its potential as a fully transformed ICT business and grow value for the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) and its beneficiaries.

“We appeal to Scof to take concrete steps to create an environment conducive to these warring parties to call a truce and get down to doing what they are mandated to do by their constituencies.”

He also asked that ScoF institute an investigation into the conduct of institutions that were undermining democracy and business confidence, and that actively engaged in destroying AYO and GEPF’s value.

Also briefing the committee, Independent Media chief executive Takudzwa Hove spoke of the purchase of the media group, saying the PIC had made a non-binding commitment of more than R2bn when the Irish (previous owners) demanded R3.2bn.

Hove told MPs that the PIC’s exposure across Independent Media and Sekunjalo Independent Media was R860 million, all of which was paid over to the Irish as part of the purchase consideration.

“Sekunjalo invited other investors to co-invest, which provided the remaining capital of R1.15bn. Since 2013, the PIC has not supported Independent Media with a single cent despite the documented challenges Independent Media has gone through and legacy print media companies.”

He also told Scof that Sagarmatha Technology Solutions had applied to the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) to list on an International Stock Exchange as a primary listing.

He said that despite the SARB having initially indicated that approval would take a few months at most, Sagarmatha still awaited approval two years later.

“SARB has now indicated that a new application has to be made, which will be forwarded to the Treasury for approval. This delay has prejudiced Sagarmatha, Independent Media and the PIC, and is indicative of a hidden hand stopping the progress of the listing and unlocking of value for the PIC.”

Hove asked if the committee could help him understand why the SARB had not given Sagarmatha the go-ahead to list overseas.

He also accused the PIC's new leadership of adopting a hostile approach towards Independent Media and Sagarmatha.

“There is now a desperate attempt to either launch a hostile assault on Independent Media for a takeover of the business, or failing that destroy the business completely so that there is no competitor narrative to the other mainstream media.”

Hove also conveyed Independent Media's willingness and desire for all parties to work together for the good of democracy, requesting that it be accorded the same level of respect and support as its competitors.

"Continuous efforts to liquidate and/or eradicate Independent Media are not beneficial to anyone, least of all the more than 1 500 employees who stand to lose their livelihoods, which would further add to rising unemployment statistics," said Hove.

When asked to respond to the matters raised, PIC chief executive Abel Sithole said they were not in a position to respond immediately.

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