Home Business Sekunjalo Competition Tribunal victory is a win for equality and justice

Sekunjalo Competition Tribunal victory is a win for equality and justice

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Iqbal Survé is a South African general practitioner, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is the Chairman of the Sekunjalo Investments,[1] and Executive Chairman of Independent Media, one of South Africa's largest media companies.

OPINION BY MASIBONGWE SIHLAHLA – It is not every day that the ordinary man and woman receives good news. Of late, and increasingly, the public have been pummelled by rising food prices, petrol prices of over R20 per litre, high bus fares and taxi fares and a lack of rail transport. The continued load shedding, now reaching levels of Stage 6, underline that the ‘New Dawn’ has turned into the New Darkness.

So, good news is long overdue, and that it came in the form of a decision by the Competition Tribunal to grant Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (SIH) and its group of companies an interim interdict against South Africa’s banking fraternity is even better.

The move by South Africa’s banking sector to close down Sekunjalo’s accounts would potentially have pushed the group into liquidation, causing the subsequent fallout of thousands of jobs. The knock-on effect of this would have jeopardised thousands of dependants too.

The banks’ biased outlooks, claiming reputational risk in dealing with Dr Iqbal Survé and Sekunjalo, is at odds with their stance on retaining the accounts of hundreds of corrupt public officials and fraudsters who retain their rights to transact.

Dr Iqbal Surve comments on the ruling by the Competition Tribunal

For far too long, South Africa’s banks have bullied and trampled on the rights and dignity of ordinary mortals and companies. The press has been rife with stories of people losing their homes and their vehicles through the banks’ abuse of the National Credit Act to force sales in execution, for example, for as little as an outstanding debt of R3 000 (or less).

It is a sad but nevertheless hard truth that our voted-in politicians – those who are supposed to protect the rights of the people – have themselves been swayed and, in some instances, compromised by being at the beck and call of the bankers, doing very little to protect their constituents, or worse, have used the banks to execute political favours and terminate or neutralise political enemies, such as may have been attempted in the case of Sekunjalo.

However, they may well have met their match in the form of Dr Survé.

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Sekunjalo Group scored a victory when the Competition Tribunal on Friday granted interim relief to the company by preventing three banks from closing its bank accounts. Picture: Armand Hough/ANA

For democracy to thrive, there is a requirement for an active citizenry and a strong civil society. This is something Survé has vigorously championed, and in choosing to take on the might of the country’s banking fraternity, and challenging their dominance, he is not only fighting for his companies’ right to trade, but also for the man and woman in the street to enjoy the right to be included in the economy.

For our country to enjoy growth rates of 3% plus as in the past, we need to break the power of those who are determined to keep the poor enslaved in eternal poverty. These oppressors include the financial sector.

Poverty can only be fought through increasing our economic growth, which can only be done through job creation. Yet our banks, appearing to work in concert, close bank accounts of companies and individuals, knowing that as they do so there will be increased unemployment. This in a country where the predicted growth rate currently hovers between 0.3 and 0.8%.

Should the Sekunjalo company accounts have been terminated, this would have resulted in some 8 500 additional job losses, not to mention the erasure of some R8 billion from the country’s fiscus.

The outcome last Friday, in an order handed down by the Competition Tribunal, has thus shown that South Africa still has a fair, just and impartial judiciary, together with the requisite independent instruments to withstand the bullying and discrimination of our banks.

It is hoped that this will be a beacon of hope for others in similar circumstances, that they can themselves triumph over the odds. It is also trusted that this will have the effect of paving the way for economic development and economic empowerment of our ordinary people, reducing unemployment and diminishing the reliance of those receiving state grants from the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).

Justice shall prevail.

Masibongwe Sihlahla is an independent writer.

Cape Argus


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