The SA government’s support for a political movement some 7,200km away could complicate a $1.1bn deal.

Moroccan billionaire Othman Benjelloun spoke out on Tuesday against Sanlam’s acquisition of insurer Saham Finance, saying SA has chosen the wrong side in a territorial dispute.

SA supports a group called the Polisario Front, which has been seeking self-determination in the Western Sahara territory since 1991. Morocco also claims ownership of that sparsely populated desert region.

“We end up with an SA investor, owning a company that was Moroccan, on our own territory,” the financial services tycoon told reporters in Casablanca on Tuesday. “We aren’t going to hide that we have not appreciated this gesture.”

Benjelloun is the chair of Morocco’s BMCE Bank and an influential voice in the North African country’s financial services industry.

“We will applaud the fact that Saham stays South African” when Pretoria changes tack regarding Western Sahara, he said. “Until they do, they are not getting our support.”

Sanlam agreed to take full control of Saham in a $1.1bn deal last year, making it the company’s biggest acquisition.