The Sekunjalo Group of Companies in a statement confirmed that Standard Bank will keep the accounts of 30 of its companies that have accounts with the institution, open.
The postponement is until September 16, 2023, and is aligned with the extension of the Competition Tribunal interim relief ruling but is also contingent on the conclusion and outcome of an investigation being conducted by the Competition Commission into accusations of collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, brought by the wider Sekunjalo Group of Companies against the country’s major banks.
“It is important to note that the Competition Commission is still busy with this investigation, hence the interim relief order the Tribunal granted in September 2022, has been extended, with the next due on September 16, 2023,” the statement read.
“For clarity, the Competition Tribunal (the Tribunal) found that there was a prima facie case that the banks had engaged in market dominance and anti-competitive behaviour. Further, the Tribunal found that having received and perused all the documents before it, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by any of the Sekunjalo Group of Companies, and that therefore the action of the nine banks is arbitrary and without basis.
“Three of the banks involved in the Tribunal matter, however, took the Competition Tribunal’s ruling on appeal. On July 17, 2021, the Competition Appeal Court (CAC) made the unusual and irregular decision to rule on an interim relief order, and notably, without the completion of the Competition Commission’s actual investigation.
“The CAC found that the Tribunal had erred because Sekunjalo had not, it said, provided the Tribunal with evidence of collusion to close its Group accounts. The CAC also stated that Sekunjalo had not provided the Tribunal with all the requisite documents, even though the Group had, and they are on record.
As such, CAC found in favour of Standard Bank, Access Bank and Mercantile Bank, on a technicality.
That this was done before the Competition Commission has completed its work, is, the Sekunjalo Group of Companies feel, a desperate attempt to influence the Competition Commission.
Standard Bank subsequently issued notice that it would close certain of the Sekunjalo-related bank accounts on August 21, 2023, as the Sekunjalo Group of Companies had predicted.
On Monday, August 7, 2023, the Sekunjalo Group filed an appeal with the Constitution Court. This is a narrow application in terms of the competition matters and is separate from the Equality Court action Sekunjalo has brought against nine banks for discrimination and arbitrarily closing the Group’s accounts.
Separate to the current papers before the Constitutional Court, “the Sekunjalo Group of companies, however, is confident that the Constitution Court will be the ultimate deciding body to look at the equal rights of all citizens and entities in South Africa in relation to the arbitrary closure of bank accounts by the banks”.
The group said that the massive power that banks have over the country, conflicts with many of our country’s constitutional freedoms – including the right to trade, discriminatory laws, and the right to media freedom.
The Sekunjalo Group “acknowledges that Standard Bank has postponed its action and that its bank accounts will remain operational. Whilst the Group acknowledges the extension, the Sekunjalo Group reserves its rights to interdict Standard Bank and join it to the Equality Court action”.
The Sekunjalo Group also further acknowledges the extraordinary stress and strain its Group employees have faced in recent weeks, and “thanks them for their show of strength and support against what are exceptional and unprecedented challenges no-one should have to endure in a free market and democratic society”.
"We believe in the rule of law, our Constitution, our right to bank, right to trade and our inalienable right for a free and just society in which all South Africans can prosper, " the Sekunjalo Group of Companies concluded its statement.