WATCH: JSE is potentially doing the entire country a disservice – Survé

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CAPE TOWN – The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) needs to “honestly” transform.

The JSE is anti-transformation. The Sekunjalo Group (Sekunjalo) strongly believes this to be the case, with only a minor percentage of black-owned and black managed companies listed on South Africa’s largest exchange in the 25 years since the advent of democracy.

Sekunjalo sees the veracity of its belief in the fact that the JSE appears to have double standards when it comes to dealing with black-owned and managed listed entities. For example, there has been unnecessary and consistent harassment levelled by the JSE at various companies associated with the Sekunjalo Group of late.

Many of these companies have outstanding track records garnered over more than two decades of operation, with some of them listed for a significant period of time.

However, these exemplary track records have been forgotten, as the rumour mill runs rife and salacious gossip becomes fact when shared through news reports or on social media – and all without being truly tested.

In the more than 20 years of conducting business in South Africa, Sekunjalo has never known a company or companies, to be subjected to the level of scrutiny, investigation and what amounts to intimidation, such as has been targeted towards AYO Technology Solutions (AYO), Sagarmatha Technologies and even African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI).

It does not bode well for future black-owned organisations looking to list, as they will no doubt be subjected to fierce interrogation of their propositions before being permitted access. The point here is that all companies should be subjected to the same rules, and the JSE needs to apply them across the board and not selectively as appears the case right now.

In not welcoming more black-owned and managed business organisations to participate in the capital markets, the JSE is potentially doing the entire country a disservice.

South Africa’s long-term survival and sustainability depend on the inclusion of black-owned, managed and driven businesses – after all, they represent the majority of the people in this country.

Twenty-five years on and the majority of the country’s wealth is still in the hands of the minority. This is an indisputable and inalienable fact that most mainstream media does not seem to grasp, as they rarely if ever report on it.

Do not make a mistake. Sekunjalo is a commercially minded group of companies. However, we do so, not at the expense or detriment of our country, but for the benefit of the country as a whole.

Of late, however, Sekunjalo has become increasingly concerned by the bias shown by the country’s premier stock exchange, the JSE.

The JSE appears to have parked its impartiality and strict oversight of the exchange rules in favour of unproven and untested hearsay. This particularly towards black-owned or managed companies that Sekunjalo has invested in.

It is our considered view that the JSE is making public statements about these companies based on rumour and in response to unsubstantiated media reports.

The JSE has not even given these companies the courtesy of informing them about these public statements or checking their factual correctness with the companies concerned, before going public.

Illustrating this, we look no further than the recent Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Commission of Inquiry, where JSE officials did not disclose the correct facts in relation to the Sagarmatha listing.

Mr Visser was incorrect when he stated that Sagarmatha did not raise the required capital, when in fact it had achieved the requisite commitments and without the investment from the PIC.

He also failed to mention that Sagarmatha had received documentation from CIPC that showed that it was indeed compliant before the date of the proposed listing.

Companies such as MTN, Steinhoff, Tongaat Hulett and others, who have cost shareholders hundreds of billions of rands in lost value, appear to be treated with kid gloves by the JSE. But, those in whom Sekunjalo has a stake are subjected to detailed and public investigation and humiliation.

There are many instances of JSE-listed organisations were widely reported questionable dealings have never made the headlines or been “investigated”.

It is unfortunate that the JSE seems to treat these very differently to the way it treats Sekunjalo investee companies. This attitude and behaviour smack of an anti-transformation agenda.

The Sekunjalo Group stands firm in championing honest transformation for all South Africans, defending the rights of black businesses to exist and the right to be included in the capital markets.

It is time for the JSE to honestly and openly, transform and to re-examine its own standards of operation.

Dr Iqbal Survé is the chairperson of the Sekunjalo Group.

This story first appeared on the Business Report Online