The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) condemns the selective morality of ABSA and First National Bank (FNB) who seemingly are abusing their power as banking oligarchs to target political opponents and competitors. The two large banks have without any engagement given AYO Technology Solutions, a notice to terminate banking services on the 3rd of May 2021. AYO Technology is linked to Sekunjalo Holdings, which is a black investment holding that has business interests in the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector. The announcement by FNB comes a month after ABSA severed services to all business enterprises linked to Sekunjalo Holdings.
What is baffling is that these banking institutions have not taken the public into confidence as to why it is taking such drastic steps. The reasons paddled so far are not convincing.
ABSA highlighted that it would suffer reputational damage in its continued association with Sekunjalo Holdings in the alleged looting of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). This follows damning reports (which are contested) of how Sekunjalo Holdings and Mr Iqbal Surve were linked to dodgy investment activities with PIC.
SAFTU will not defend Sekunjalo should they be found to be on the wrong side of the law. If the law enforcement agency take the matters arising from the PIC inquiry to the court, SAFTU will applaud and demand that they like anyone else are held accountable. At this moment Sekunjalo has not been charged in any court of law.
The company has denied all allegations and pointed out that this was a plot by the big white capitalists trying to suffocate a black owned company. In addition to this, the Black Business Chamber has condemned this, citing that FNB and ABSA are shareholders in white owned ICT companies. In other words, their attacks on Sekunjalo business group could be motivated by the need to drive competitors out of business.
SAFTU is calling on the banks to be consistent!
Even if we wished that the banks were truly committed to fighting corruption, the inconsistency by the banking institutions in this case smells of ulterior motives instead of genuinely fighting corruption.
Why do we say so?
- 30 financial institutions including ABSA were caught red handed manipulating the currency to the detriment of the economy. They have not yet been held accountable, even though several paid massive fines in the United States for their destruction of the South African Rand. So too, are companies which were in cahoots with the Guptas including the media, lawyers and international audit firms. Why is ABSA not holding itself accountable, and only then, it can demand that all other follow its example?
- Steinhoff International, committed the biggest corporate fraud ever to be known in this country, but still, it has its banking services intact. The banks have not taken any moral position on it. It is only the wealth fund of Norway, that has so far began taking such a moral position for ethical and environmental purpose against certain companies. The Norwegian Wealth Fund blacklisted 15 multinational companies because of unethical conducts relating to human rights violations and severe environmental damage.
- For the whole era of the 2010s, indeed, the SA capitalist class topped the bi-annual PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of economic criminals, higher even than perennial competitors from France and Kenya. Where is any kind of action by ABSA and FNB action against such corporate criminals? Why are they not closing down the accounts of the rest of the capitalist class who made to the list?
- According to the Financial Intelligence Centre, a staggering $10-25 billion (R178-R445 billion) is annually shifted out of the economy through illicit financial flows. Even President Ramaphosa was repeatedly implicated in Illicit Financial Flows, through companies he influenced including Lonmin, MTN and his own Investment Holdings, Shanduka, as the Panama Papers revealed. When will we seen the closure of bank accounts of the President, Lonmin, MTN and Shanduka together with all those robbing our country these billions that could be used for development?
- Judge Davis’ Tax Commission argues that at least R50 billion per year – a “very conservative” estimate – is lost due to tax-dodging schemes. Why are the banks not keen to find out who are these people stealing the future of the country?
- Treasury’s top officials admit that in local procurement contracts, overpricing occurs by 35-40% on average. That is cool R250 to R350 billion in every financial year. We demand to see action by the monopoly banks against these fraudsters.
The claims by the Black Business Chamber may stick, that, not only is Sekunjalo driven out of business for monopolistic tendencies only as would arise in any usual intra-capitalist conflicts, but it is done so based on racial motives.
ABSA and FNB have no and cannot have any basis to assume a moral ground.
In condemning the termination of banking services to the Sekunjalo Holdings and the possible racism that motivates such an attitude, SAFTU is not oblivious to the fact that the fledgling black capitalists are as savage as their white counterpart in the exploitation of workers. Their colour would not make them less exploitative. Afterall, capitalist enterprise thrives on the maximisation of profit which can only come as a result of super-exploitation of workers.
SAFTU holds that the total overhaul of the racial cleavages that manifest in all sectors of the economy, the racial and gender parity in remuneration, and the abolition of exploitation of workers can come as a result of democratic worker ownership and control of the industries and the finance sector.
SAFTU supports the planned protest action against the decision to terminate the banking services to Sekunjalo Holdings, taking place at the Banks Precinct in Sandton on the 29 April 2021