FSCA: What’s the agenda?

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Last week, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) gave an exclusive interview to Sasha Planting of the Daily Maverick, wherein it indicated that it would be acting against infamous corporate fraudsters Steinhoff International and market delinquents Tongaat Hulett next year.

From the outside looking in, one can deduce that there was definitely something odd about this announcement as Planting quoted the executive responsible for investigations at the FSCA, Brandon Topham.

For those who may not remember, Topham took up the position at the FSCA after he spent some time on Plein Street as a member of Parliament, representing the DA. This appointment raised quite a few eyebrows last year, as to how and why a former member of Parliament, with a known allegiance to a certain political formation, would be appointed to a politically sensitive position such as at the FSCA.

The appointment subsequently gave rise to speculation that Topham was tasked by certain members of the DA to deal with some prominent members of the ANC, its allies or EFF-aligned politicians, as well as certain business people.

The FSCA has previously denied any such agenda ever existed.

However, the surprise statement by the FSCA, conveyed in the Daily Maverick interview, for it to pursue Steinhoff or Tongaat Hulett without being sparked by any specific event or announcement by either, has once again sparked speculation of other agendas.

So, what were the series of events that led to this statement?

Let us start at the Daily Maverick. Sometime during last week, the online publication received a leaked document on the corruption at Eskom by certain companies, such as ABB and Stefanutti.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan tried for many months to convince the public that the R4 billion that was overpaid to the above-mentioned companies was instead related to the Gupta family.

However, he was eventually forced to disclose that it was not the Guptas, but specific “white-owned” companies linked to certain members of the management at Eskom.

The chief operations officer of Eskom, Jan Oberholzer, has been revealed to be a shareholder of Stefanutti. This document, which Gordhan handed to the Chief Whip in Parliament, was “leaked” to the Daily Maverick – no other media.

It is well known in journalistic circles that the Daily Maverick mainly serves as the mouthpiece for Gordhan and a certain elitist faction in the ANC. What is also commonly known is that a significant funder of the Daily Maverick is the Oppenheimer family. The Oppenheimer family were also supporters of the CR17 campaign, as well as being one of the first to donate to the Covid-19 solidarity fund.

Additionally, in case we have all forgotten, the Oppenheimers also received rights to a private airport, a situation that contributed immensely to the downfall of former finance minister Malusi Gigaba.

It seems reasonable therefore, that it could be said that the Daily Maverick is none other than a glorified public newsletter for Gordhan and a preferred ANC faction.

The question should then be why the Daily Maverick would choose, out of the blue, to publish an interview with Topham.

Rumours in the National Treasury suggest that all is not well between its deputy director-general, Ismail Momoniat, a close ally of Gordhan, and the director-general (D-G) of Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, as well as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and his deputy minister David Masondo.

Momoniat has been dogged by a cloud of controversy for a while. He is allegedly seen to control the Treasury due to his close proximity to Gordhan, who in turn has proximity to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Gordhan, it has been revealed, was also the main person behind raising funds for the CR17 campaign fund. A highly placed Treasury official, with inside information, further claims Momoniat is untouchable.

Independent Media can confirm that when Topham and the FSCA raided Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (Sekunjalo) and its associated companies in October last year, sources at the Treasury said that neither the Minister, deputy minister or D-G were aware of the FSCA raid and that the only person that Topham had communicated with was Momoniat at the Treasury.

As reminder, it was Sekunjalo that laid the original complaint at the FSCA suspecting that controversial businesswoman Magda Wierzycka, the chief executive of Sygnia, was manipulating the share price of AYO Technologies.

Further, well-placed sources say that Momoniat has been given instructions from Gordhan to block any business of Sekunjalo at the Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.

Could Topham’s statement on Steinhoff and Tongaat be nothing but a smokescreen? But for what?

Recent events have shown that Sekunjalo and Independent Media have been targeted by the pro-Gordhan faction in the ANC, with the aim of shutting down the biggest newspaper publishing group in Africa.

The purpose is to destabilise the business interests of Sekunjalo, which will also be to the detriment of tens of thousands of jobs. Because of this, they will not hesitate to use their proxies in organisations such as the FSCA and the Public Investment Corporation, where long-time Gordhan loyalist and spin doctor Adrian Lackay is employed, also under dubious circumstances.

When the FSCA raided the Sekunjalo offices in 2019, there was a public outcry that the company was being targeted by the FSCA as part of a factional battle in the ANC.

Social media was abuzz, especially black Twitter, accusing the FSCA and Topham of being soft on the real criminals at Steinhoff, EOH, Tongaat and other JSE-listed companies. The raid on the Sekunjalo offices was reported by Planting at Daily Maverick, showing the close relationship between the Daily Maverick, Topham, FSCA and the pro-Gordhan faction at the ANC.

This current announcement of the FSCA, therefore, could be a deflection for further nefarious raids on Sekunjalo and Independent Media. It is nothing but a weak attempt for the FSCA to create the impression that it can act equally against all parties.

Obviously alerting Steinhoff and Tongaat to the fact they may be investigated is not exactly equal now, is it?

De-stabilising one of South Africa’s most successful black-owned businesses, particularly one that has the necessary means with which to convey to the public the truth of what lies behind the deception currently being perpetrated in our country, seems to be the real agenda here.

Truth, is indeed, stranger than fiction and truth, as they say, always comes out.