Standard Bank to appeal ruling preventing them from closing Sekunjalo Group’s bank accounts

Standard Bank heads to the Western Cape High Court to appeal the court’s decision. Picture: Ian Landsberg/Independent Newspapers

Standard Bank heads to the Western Cape High Court to appeal the court’s decision. Picture: Ian Landsberg/Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 15, 2024


TODAY, Standard Bank will be appealing the decision of the Western Cape High Court ordering it to refrain from closing the bank accounts of Independent Media and 30 other companies in the Sekunjalo Group’s (Sekunjalo).

The Group applied for an urgent interim interdict against Standard Bank in the Western Cape High Court.

The judgment in favour of Sekunjalo was handed down at the eleventh hour of Standard Bank’s planned closure of the accounts on Friday, September 15, 2023.

The reasoning given by Standard Bank for the closure of the accounts was “reputational risk”, based on unfavourable reporting by rival media outlets. Claims, which they have yet to prove.

Sekunjalo Group’s counsel said the banking institution also targeted the 31 applicants because of their affiliation with Dr Iqbal Survé.

Survé is an entrepreneur, medical doctor, philanthropist and chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, and the non-executive chairman of Independent Media.

Speaking on Newzroom Afrika this morning, Survé said the banks had no basis for closing the bank accounts as they had only cited (unfounded) reputational risk, but as in the case of at least one of the banks, they had confirmed there was no wrongdoing by Sekunjalo Group companies.

“We have taken the banks to the Equality Court sitting in the Western Cape High Court, and the main case is that we argued that the banks have no basis for closing the accounts,” Survé said.

“The fact that the banks have violated our constitutional rights in doing so, they have discriminated against us. That is the case in the Equality Court. In terms of the High Court, we have argued similarly, but a lot more on legal grounds,” he said.

“We are in fact challenging the 2010, Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) Bredenkamp case, which is quite a famous case, which gives the banks the right to close any South African’s bank account for whatever reason, if they so wish.

“But the banks have deliberately delayed the process,” said Survé. “They don’t want to go to the Equality Court, they don’t want to go to the High Court but we’re trying to get them there. They are trying to use every single delay tactic in the world that you could imagine.”

He said part of the delay is that the banks have been refusing to provide Sekunjalo with minutes of their meetings, or risk committee meetings or providing important documents, which should have been used to shape their decision to close the bank accounts of the group and individuals who have been affected.

“The banks, unbelievably, like Nedbank, went to the High Court and said so sorry we don’t have any minutes of our meetings, we have no risk committee minutes, the documents have been lost. We [Nedbank] don’t have anything to say why we have shut down these accounts,” Survé shared.

Survé said they had approached the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) to compel the banks to provide the requisite information as to why the banks had closed Sekunjalo’s accounts, considering these institutions had stated Sekunjalo had done nothing wrong.

“They [banks] tell us it’s all based on media and based on the Mpati Commission report, as opposed to anything we did wrong, yet the FIC is supposed to have all this information,” Survé said.

“The FIC has refused to give us this information as well. So, we were compelled, reluctantly, to go to the High Court against the banks and against the FIC.”

On Monday this week, the Cape High Court ordered the FIC to hand over all documents, and within 20 days, pertaining to Sekunjalo Investments Holdings and its related entities, as well as those of Steinhoff, EOH and Tongaat Hulett. The ruling also ordered the FIC to pay the costs of the matter.

“When we went to the FIC, they tried to argue confidentiality. But in the end, this is a major victory for all South Africans,” Survé said, as the ruling could compel the FIC to reveal documentation pertaining to why banks had closed anyone’s account if only on reputational risk or unfounded media reports.

“Now South Africans will have the right to insist that the bank provides the records and the FIC gives them the records. It’s not just a victory for Sekunjalo but it’s an incredibly important victory for all South Africans.”

He also dropped a few bombshells during his interview with Newzroom Afrika, stating his belief that the attack has come from the Presidency and Pravin Gordhan. Discussions with banking institutions where settlement was discussed resulted in instructions coming from the top, politically, to shut down the bank accounts, shared Survé.

“As recently as three months ago, one of the people very close to the senior politicians in the African National Congress (ANC) came to see me and said: ‘if you give up Independent Media we will make sure the banks reinstate your bank accounts immediately’.

“I said no, because we fought for our freedom and democracy. We have the right to media freedom. We will continue to fight you no matter how difficult it is,” Survé told the broadcaster.

Independent Media is the largest newspaper publisher in South Africa and prints the Cape Argus, the Cape Times, and The Star, among others in its stable of 15 daily and weekly titles.

Last month, Sekunjalo also gave notice that it intends to sue President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Presidency, and other State organs for R75 billion for loss of earnings. A week or so later, Sagarmatha Technologies (Sagarmatha), a Sekunjalo Group company, announced it has also initiated a R50 billion lawsuit against key South African governmental and regulatory bodies, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).