Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) has described an application by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to liquidate it as a “further attempt to embarrass and undermine the Sekunjalo group and Dr [Iqbal] Survé.”
Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (SIH) confirmed in a statement that Independent Media and Survé have been served with papers, but did not provide further details, and claimed the papers erroneously cited Sekunjalo Independent Media and Survé as respondents.
The PIC had not provided the Mail & Guardian with details of the application at the time of publication.
Sekunjalo Independent Media spokesperson Takudzwa Hove said the PIC’s application is filled with inaccuracies. “Among the many errors in the supporting affidavit, the PIC and its advisers cited the incorrect parties to the relevant legal agreements. This action is not only incompetent and mala fide but malicious on the part of the PIC and its advisers.”
Sekunjalo Independent Media, which is chaired by Survé, is owned by Survé’s Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and publishes, among other newspapers, The Star, Cape Times, Cape Argus, The Mercury, Pretoria News, Diamond Fields Advertiser, Daily News, Daily Voice, Isolezwe, Business Report, Sunday Independent and Sunday Tribune.
The liquidation application follows the PIC’s head of legal services, Lindiwe Dlamini, telling the finance committee in Parliament that the state asset manager would be looking to recoup its funds from the Sekunjalo-led consortium. This is after the company had failed to service a 2013 loan from the PIC to acquire Independent Media from its Irish owners.
In a previous statement, Survé disputed the suggestion that R1.5-billion is owed to the PIC by Sekunjalo Independent Media, saying that the company has never requested a loan from the state asset manager.
“The PIC and its advisers have elected not to disclose in their court papers, SIM’s letter of 30 September 2019, addressed to its attorneys by SIM, wherein it is explained that SIM is not indebted to the PIC for any sum,” Hove said.
“This application is a waste of taxpayers’ money and constitutes irregular spending on the part of the PIC, which should be investigated by the appropriate authorities.”
He said that Sekunjalo Independent Media has instructed its attorneys to oppose the application, which will include seeking a special costs order against the PIC.
The M&G has previously reported that the possible liquidation of the company could sink Sekunjalo Independent Media and threaten the existence of its numerous titles, which have dwindling circulations. Its flagship isiZulu newspaper, Isolezwe ngeSonto, for instance, has seen a 20% drop in circulation from 65 013 in 2018 to 51 992 in 2019.
In October, auditing firm BDO South Africa said it would not renew its mandate with four companies under Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, namely African Equity Empowerment Investors; AYO Technology Solutions; Independent Media; and Premier Fishing and Brands Limited.
BDO’s announcement came shortly after the Financial Services Conduct Authority’s (FSCA’s) raid of the Sekunjalo headquarters in Cape Town, citing “market manipulation”. Survé criticised the raid, placing the blame on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and calling it a “fishing expedition”. Survé further threatened to sue the FSCA, its acting commissioner and the investigators who participated in the raid.