AYO chairperson Dr Wallace Mgoqi said the smear campaign launched in March 2018 came as a result of factional battles at the PIC, making AYO the collateral damage. Photographer: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

JOHANNESBURG – JSE-LISTED AYO Technology Solutions yesterday requested Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF) to investigate a 2018 smear campaign that has brought major damage to the tech firm.

AYO was making a presentation to the committee after requesting SCoF to give them an opportunity to tell their side of the story on its dispute with the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

AYO chairperson Dr Wallace Mgoqi said the smear campaign launched in March 2018 came as a result of factional battles at the PIC, making AYO the collateral damage.

“Up until March 2018, there was no problem with the AYO listing,” Mgoqi said. “Asset managers and hedge funds took advantage of the negative publicity against AYO to undermine its value. Extensive collaboration between journalists, public commentators, and private corporate entities was designed to do maximum damage.”

Mgoqi pleaded with SCoF to examine the facts as opposed to the hearsay, stressing that AYO had faced a barrage of litigation, investigations, and unwarranted inquiries since 2018.

“It is sad that the PIC conduct has caused significant erosion to their investment in AYO on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and its beneficiaries.”

Mgoqi said AYO was a business committed to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) transformation and was defenceless against the kind of political and media smear campaign that it had been subjected to. “It is defenceless against the resources of the PIC which is using pensioners money to drive a political agenda against AYO, undermining the business through both overt public and covert actions.

“South Africa needs greater accountability by officials especially in State-owned enterprises and regulatory institutions to ensure that there is no bias, no unfairness, and no victimisation and that state organs should not be used to settle political scores or destroy businesses or individuals.

“This conduct has a huge reputational impact for South Africa’s business confidence, especially as AYO has done nothing wrong and been transparent about business dealings from inception to date,” he said.

Mgoqi said the PIC has also instituted litigation against AYO, and that the matter was sub judice.

“The court records are available to the public. AYO is hopeful that the PIC will 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.ADVERTISING

“AYO is not a political opponent of the PIC and should not be treated as such. It is a business and we should be allowed to do our business. If AYO is allowed to do its business without shackles like every other normal ICT company, it will realise the value for its shareholders, including the GEPF, as outlined in its prospectus,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings chairman Dr Iqbal Survé dispelled allegations that the PIC was contributing to the company. Survé said Sekunjalo was an indirect shareholder of AYO through African Equity Empowerment Investments, which holds 49 percent, and the PIC holds 30 percent.

He requested the PIC to correct the misrepresentation they had previously presented on a public platform and confirmed that the PIC has no investments and loans with any Sekunjalo companies.

The PIC, who attended the last hour of the presentation, said they were not in a position to comment at this stage on a number of factual assertions made during the presentation, but would revert to SCoF with responses later.