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South Africa cannot allow Ramaphosa’s corruption to win

South Africa cannot allow Ramaphosa’s corruption to win

THE Falcons Investigative Unit

South Africa’s largest asset manager, the Public Investment Corporation, has invested more than R1.6 trillion on the JSE. In 2022, nearly 30 years after democracy opened the country to business, less than 1% of this magnificent sum (it’s a lot of zeroes) has been invested in black-owned companies.

It’s not because there are not enough black-owned or -managed organisations out there, though. To my mind, it’s because the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The outcry over the PIC’s investment in Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital and Ayo Technology Solutions is a case in point.

Especially that of Ayo, of whom reams of articles have been written, in what appears to be a deliberate attempt by the “establishment” media to undermine the investment, even going so far as to allude to it being a loan to Dr Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, or even Survé directly. Complete falsehoods.

The PIC, in fact, invested in an 80-page pre-listing-statement that went through all the PIC’s rigorous investment committees. Liking what they saw and the potential of investing in the single fastest and most dominant industry on earth – technology – the PIC decided to take a 30% stake as a special purpose acquisition company, as it effectively wanted negative control, which it continues to exercise today.

Underlining the value of the investment, the PIC has been the recipient of around R400 million in dividends since Ayo’s listing in December 2017. This is a pretty good return for any investment, especially given the sharp global economic downturn over the past two years or more thanks to a succession of economic restrictions and lockdowns courtesy of Covid-19.

Despite this, though, Ayo has been under attack from a rapacious media cohort in South Africa who have singled out just one of the company’s indirect shareholders, Dr Iqbal Survé, in what appears to be a co-ordinated effort to devalue the tech investment giant and tarnish Survé’s reputation.

An example of this is the recent JSE public censure and fining of two former directors linked to Ayo for their actions in 2017 and 2018 – that’s five years ago – with all the media, in unison, using an image of Survé to drive attention to their stories.

Why? Survé is neither a direct shareholder, on the board or part of the management team. Why not use the PIC’s name and image in these articles?

As an organisation having board representation and having one of the biggest direct stakes in Ayo, one would have expected to see them have a mention and even a comment.

As to the timing of the JSE’s public outing of their “findings”, given Ayo was due to post its end of year results in that same week…

Yet in another instance, and in the same week, Renee Bonorchis, Bloomberg’s local correspondent and a former journalist with South Africa’s “establishment” media, reported on Ayo’s decision to pay out a dividend despite reporting a loss, deliberately including Survé’s name and image in her story, but making no mention, again, of the dividends that will accrue to the PIC.

Further, Bonorchis’s use of phrasing in her article, referring to the PIC’s looming court date with Ayo, where she writes that Ayo “is in a court battle over the billions it took from Africa’s largest fund manager” is designed to further undermine the company.

How different would that sentence have read if it had been written as “in a court battle over the billions Africa’s largest fund manager invested in it”?

Survé has gone from media darling in the 1990s and early 2000s, when he was feted by the establishment and recognised with more than 20 awards for his outstanding business acumen and contribution to the South African business landscape, to being cast as the villain of the piece.

That this lauding abruptly stopped in 2013, the year he happened to become the chairman of Independent Media, is no coincidence.

Countless articles have since been churned out by a succession of young, and even seasoned, reporters looking to become the next Pulitzer Prize winner, without fact, substance, or a care for the damage these acts of fiction have wrought.

This is not simply a matter of reporting incorrectly – it is fake news.

One does not need to look far to understand that Survé’s claims of a co-ordinated campaign against him have the ring of truth about them.

In the pursuit of vilifying him, media houses and reporters have angled their headlines and used his image for clickbait.

To co-ordinate and sustain a campaign of this scale takes deep pockets and no small amount of clout.

The genesis of the anti-Survé campaign may have been his leading the consortium that returned Independent Media to South Africa, but the foundation of much of Survé and Ayo’s current woes is the Mpati Commission report into alleged impropriety at the PIC, which called for further investigation into the Ayo deal.

After the Mpati report was made public, SIH engaged respected former judge Advocate Willem Heath to review the report’s findings. Heath, having combed through months of testimony, has firmly pointed out that the Ayotransaction was completely above board.

The Mpati report has now been taken on review in the high court, a review that, interestingly, the commissioners involved have allowed to go unchallenged.

The only person who has opposed that this report being formally reviewed is the president of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, who put the whole thing together in the first place and who, along with his minister Pravin Gordhan, has been central in the fight against Survé and Sekunjalo.

The reason is simple.

Survé and SIH have collectively, through their investment in Independent Media, exposed Ramaphosa’s shortcomings and corruption – from the CR17 funds, the PPE scandal and to the now-infamous Phala Phala scandal, which has led to Rampahosa facing possible impeachment.

There is big money at stake here, and it is a fight that Rampahosa and Gordhan cannot afford to lose. Neither can South Africa allow them to win, as the country’s financial future is on the line too.

BUSINESS REPORT

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