Assistant commissioner Gill Marcus, left, chairperson Justice Lex Mpati and assistant commissioner Emmanuel Lediga during the PIC Commission of Inquiry being held at Sammy Marks Square, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

THE Sekunjalo Group and related entities have approached the Western Cape High Court to formally take the Mpati Commission report under review and ultimately have it set aside, the group chairman said on Monday.

In an interview with SAfm, Sekunjalo chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said that Sekunjalo’s detractors had used the report against the group and its subsidiaries even though the commission had never proved any misconduct by Sekunjalo.

In its review application, Sekunjalo said the unlawful and unjustified actions of the Mpati Commission resulted in unnecessary reputational damage to the group due to the resulting defamatory media coverage. This then led to the unlawful search and seizure operation of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) against the applicants, and major banks unlawfully relying on the report to withdraw banking facilities from Sekunjalo-related entities and even individuals.

The Review application states: “Taken together, the defamatory media reports, the Mpati Commission and its report, the unlawful FSCA raid and the withdrawal of services by the banking community, show a clear campaign to shut down the Sekunjalo Group of companies. A vendetta of this scale and magnitude has only been seen once before in SA history – apartheid. The establishment seeks to silence Independent Media and destroy the Sekunjalo Group as they cannot control the Sekunjalo Group.

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“The Commission’s report was made public on 12 March 2020 and made very specific recommendations regarding further investigations that need to be done. Justice Mokgoro was reportedly appointed to oversee this process, but more than two years later the investigation remains pending. Despite this, the banks and the FSCA already took calculated decisions based on the Report that have prejudiced the Applicants.

“Despite their best efforts and the unlawful targeting of the Applicants, the Commission was unable to make any definitive findings of fraud or corruption against the Applicants. The Commission made recommendations and observations that were far removed from objective evidence, clearly indicating the Commission’s bias against the Applicants.”

Survé said the report was taken to former judge, Advocate Willem Heath, to conduct a full review. Heath found that Sekunjalo did nothing wrong.

“Despite the negative media arising out of the report, no one has been able to prove any wrongdoing on the part of any company within the Sekunjalo Group. In fact, what must be made clear, is that neither Sekunjalo Holdings nor myself were part of the terms of the Mpati commission,” said Survé.

Among others, the Heath review found that:

  • Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (SIH) was never part of the terms of reference of the Mpati Commission
  • The term malfeasance cannot be applied to Sekunjalo
  • The conduct, findings and recommendations of the Mpati Commission were irreparably tainted by illegality
  • The commission failed in complying with its terms of reference and its rules

“That’s precisely why we took the Mpati Commission on review … But the issue is not that there was anything wrong. Mpati did not say there was something wrong, he said Sekunjalo must be further investigated. That’s what we did … in fact, the banks are not saying that we’ve done something wrong. They say we’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.

Survé said the negative media reports led the country’s banks to want to cut ties with Sekunjalo and its various group companies and close their accounts. “That’s why we’ve taken them (the banks) to the Competition Commission. We’ve maintained that this decision to close Sekunjalo bank accounts is political, not reputational risk.

“They say there’s no corruption, there’s no money laundering, no illicit transfers. ‘But the fact is that your group has been in the media a lot over the last two years’, and the bank considers that as affecting its reputation,” shared Survé.

Survé said no court of law had found any misconduct within the company and no one had reported the company to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). He said the banks’ closing Sekunjalo accounts was an arbitrary and absolute abuse of power. “We’ve taken them to court, we’ve won the interdict against Nedbank. We’ve also taken them to the Competition Commission and Competition Tribunal.”

Survé said companies such as Tongaat Hulett, EOH, Steinhoff, and many others who had been found to have been involved in misconduct, had not had their bank accounts shut down, intimating these could continue to go about their business.

He further said the closing of the bank accounts would have a negative impact on the staff of Independent Media. “All that we have done is that we own a media house, which the current ruling establishment is not happy with … They are working with the banks to shut us down. In our 25 years in operation, we have operated with absolute integrity.

“This is a tragedy, the group employs 8 500 people. People’s lives are at stake here, the banks are reckless. That is why we have a duty to fight the banks. We don’t want to go through this very public process. We have to do so because people’s lives, (including) about 40 000 dependants, are at stake. It’s so important, and we’ve done nothing wrong,” Survé said.

Additional reporting by Sizwe Dlamini |