Independent Media chair and head of Sekunjalo Iqbal Survé gives evidence at the judicial commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation, April 2 2019. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/PHILL MAGAKOE
Independent Media chair and head of Sekunjalo Iqbal Survé gives evidence at the judicial commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation, April 2 2019. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/PHILL MAGAKOE

Businessman Iqbal Survé launched a blistering attack on media group Tiso Blackstar, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and white people, in a day of drama at the judicial commission of inquiry into the affairs of Africa's biggest asset manager.

Survé, who is chair of Independent Media Group and also holds a large indirect stake in Ayo Technologies, pulled no punches in his testimony on Tuesday, which began with him reading parts of his written statement into the record. His testimony was regularly interrupted with unscripted racially charged epithets, which included  calling whites “barbaric” and black participation in the economy “negligible”.

The PIC was not spared his criticism, despite being a lender to Independent Media and one of the largest shareholders in Ayo Technologies.

Survé made reference to the PIC being a big shareholder in Steinhoff, as well as lending money to entities controlled by former trade union leader and Pepkor chair Jayendra Naidoo to buy shares in the furniture retailer. The furniture retailer's share price fell 90% in December 2017, after CEO Markus Jooste resigned amid revelations of “accounting irregularities”.

“The PIC has lost billions in its Steinhoff investment and it stands out because it was always regarded as a top-performing company controlled by whites,” he said.

He repeatedly made references to the “white establishment” and how he and related entities were the champions of transformation. Survé also said his family wealth and corporate entities were not indebted to “white lenders”.

This led to a testy exchange with commissioner Gill Marcus.

“You refer to whites all the time and I'm finding it offensive. This isn’t a platform for your personal views. It is a nonracial country. Let’s have some respect,” said Marcus.

Survé responded saying he would never stop speaking about transformation.

He also denied reneging on a deal to sell Independent Media to the Guptas’ TNA Media, saying he rejected an overture from Nazeem Howa, former CEO of Oakbay Investments. Oakbay Investments is the Guptas’ investment holding company. 

“No, they were a competing bidder. Nazeem Howa came to meet me and suggested we work with TNA Media, but I did not want them to participate in Independent Media.” 

Survé blamed the failure of one of his most recent creations, Sagarmatha Technologies, to list on the JSE on Tiso Blackstar and one of its titles, Business Day, accusing them of lobbying  to force the JSE to cancel the listing.

“They (JSE) did that because you had our competitors Tiso Blackstar publications, Business Day, as they continue to do, and eNCA and others as they continue to do, blatantly putting negative propaganda in the public space to force the JSE to look for a reason to stifle this listing,” he said.

Survé claimed that had Sagarmatha listed in New York, it would probably have had a valuation of $10bn (R142bn),  making it more valuable than Absa.

When asked about his relationship with former PIC CEO Dan Matjila, Survé did not deny having a friendship with him and  implied he was part of his professional network. 

"Dr Matjila is a very important person in this country ... and I respect him a lot as a black professional. Whites have networks from when the whites were conscripted into the army and formed networks. I don't have the networks of the white community.”

However, Survé, himself, made reference numerous times to his own association with  politically connected people,  as well as Chinese billionaire and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

thompsonw@businesslive.co.za