Sekunjalo and its Subsidiaries Have the Right to Fight Against Economic Sabotage

Published Feb 6, 2024


By Edmond Phiri

The bold move by Sekunjalo Group and its associated companies to launch the R75-billion lawsuit against the South African government was long overdue and perfectly justified.

The legal action, paralleled by another Sekunjalo subsidiary, Sagarmatha Technologies, filing a separate R50-billion lawsuit, marks a critical juncture in a series of events that have systematically sought to undermine and economically sabotage Dr Iqbal Survé’s businesses.

It’s a David versus Goliath battle, with Sekunjalo on the just side of history.

Sekunjalo Group, including most of its subsidiaries encompassing Ayo Technology Solutions, Independent Media, and other associated companies, has faced a relentless barrage of attacks directly intended to undermine and destroy the companies’ value and, in some instances, hijack them.

In 2013, when Sekunjalo bought Independent Media, one of the four largest media houses, the companies began facing problems marked by orchestrated attempts to stifle their financial and operational capabilities. These attempts, as we have seen, ranged from the regulatory authorities such as the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) conducting “Hollywood-style” raids, which were thinly veiled intimidation tactics, to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)’s repression.

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Commission in 2018 was the pinnacle of the attacks against the group because it was used as a smokescreen to justify the further persecution and destruction of the Sekunjalo Group companies.

Flowing from the PIC Commission was the most egregious action, which is the unwarranted and unfair closure of bank accounts, a tactic that reeks of economic blackmail and pressure aimed at forcing Dr Survé to sell off his assets.

This move, alongside the deliberate sabotage of Sagarmatha Technologies’ listing unmistakably illustrates a pattern of economic warfare that cannot be ignored. The moment was accompanied by gloating of hostile journalists such as Sam Sole.

Another particularly revealing episode was the proposed merger of Independent Media with the then Tiso Black Star (now Arena Holdings), a manoeuvre orchestrated by the then CEO, Andrew Bonamour. That manoeuvre was a disguised corporate heist, or hostile take over of Independent Media.

Interestingly, the PIC was alleged to be the complicit actor in the plan.

The orchestrated attacks, including the FSCA raids prompted by adverse reports from the JSE, exposed a concerted effort to malign and destabilise Sekunjalo’s businesses.

Additionally, the prejudiced treatment by some courts, exemplified by a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) racial discrimination appeal hearing presided by an “all-white” judges panel, coupled with the dubious findings of the PIC commission report—later invalidated by Judge Heath’s report—lay bare the systemic bias against Survé’s business endeavours, aiming not just for marginalisation but utter obliteration of his businesses.

The primary target of take-over or destruction in the Sekunjalo businesses was and has always been the Independent Media. The other businesses under Sekunjalo Group are just collateral damage. Moreover, the significance of Independent Media in the country’s media ecosystem cannot be understated.

In a landscape dominated by a few white media houses, the voice of Independent Media offers a divergent viewpoint, essential for a vibrant democracy. These attempts to undermine its independence, existence or financial sustainability should concern all who value media diversity and freedom.

It is in this context that the decision by Sekunjalo and Sagarmatha Technologies to file lawsuits against the government becomes justified and necessary. These legal challenges represent a fight for survival in an environment that seems predisposed to engineering their failure.

At the other end of the businesses are shareholders and ordinary employees who are directly and negatively affected. Sekunjalo has a right to seek redress and accountability in the face of these coordinated and destructive activities to protect itself and the families dependent on it.

Paid social media trolls and critics wanted to attempt to paint these lawsuits as frivolous or vindictive.

However, a thorough examination of the events leading up to these legal actions reveal a different story—one of state-driven systemic efforts to undermine a business empire that has dared to challenge the status quo.

These lawsuits are the last line of defence for Sekunjalo in the struggle for existence and justice, where the scales are often tipped in favour of established interests against emerging challengers.

The current issues faced by Sekunjalo and its subsidiaries are emblematic of a larger battle against economic sabotage, where powerful entities and mechanisms are employed to quash dissent and competition.

Any business, irrespective of its ownership or leadership, has the right to operate in a fair and competitive environment.

The lawsuits filed by Sekunjalo and Sagarmatha Technologies are not merely legal disputes; but a fight for justice in an economic landscape marred by manipulation and bias.

As this legal battle progresses, it will test Sekunjalo’s determination and highlight the vital need for businesses to stand strong against the brutal and repressive system.

This fight calls for widespread support, emphasising every business’ fundamental right to seek justice and to operate in an environment free from unfair economic barriers.

In this struggle, backing Sekunjalo’s fight for fairness is crucial, to protect health and fairness in the economic and media environment.

* Edmond Phiri is an independent commentator and analyst.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.