Iqbal Survé's 'R300m BEE recipient' headquartered in RDP home

Questions multiply about so-called empowerment deals

17 February 2019 - 00:05 By CAIPHUS KGOSANA

A "black empowerment" beneficiary of Iqbal Survé's AYO Technology Solutions, which scored shares worth more than R300m when AYO listed on the JSE, is an obscure entity whose registered address is an RDP house in the working-class suburb of Delft, on the Cape Flats.
The company, registered as Bertolor, holds seven million shares, according to a final register detailing the shares allocated when AYO listed.
The shares were allocated through a discounted share scheme that set the price at R1.50 a share, supposedly for the benefit of BEE groups, trade unions, women and youth bodies.
The Public Investment Corporation invested R4.3bn of government pensioners' money in AYO at R43 a share.
Survé, who has an indirect stake in AYO, has said the discount scheme was created for the benefit of small black-owned businesses, trade unions and marginalised groups.
The register shows that when AYO listed on the JSE in December 2017, Bertolor's seven million shares were worth just over R300m.
A company search lists Bertolor's two directors as Mntuwekhaya Cishe and Sizwe Seun Ngqame, and its address as Cishe's home in Delft.
Cishe is also the general secretary of the Black Business Chamber, a small, little-known business organisation operating from Philippi on the Cape Flats. Ngqame is chair of the organisation, which has links to Survé.
Rosemary Mosia, a board member of AYO and Sagarmatha, is listed as the chamber's acting CEO and Survé appears on its website as its "patron". Sagarmatha is a tech company 96% owned by Survé's investment company Sekunjalo.
Khalid Abdulla, CEO of Survé's African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI), sits on the advisory board of the chamber, which purportedly supports the empowerment of SMMEs, youth, women and people with disabilities.
Survé controls Sagarmatha, AEEI and AYO through AEEI.
Contacted for comment, Cishe said: "I'm a small-business owner. My understanding is that what Dr Survé did is basically to assist us as emerging businesses because we are struggling, especially in the Western Cape, in terms of penetrating markets and access to opportunities.
"Our understanding is that this assistance we got will help in the transformation of the economy, especially the ICT sector," he said.
Asked if he had received any payments or special dividends before or after participating in the scheme, Cishe asked for questions to be sent via e-mail. He had not responded at the time of going to print. Ngqame could not be reached for comment.
The discounted shares are listed as "vendor financed" but it's not clear who the vendor finance company or individual was.
It's also not clear what Bertolor brings to the table, or why it was singled out to benefit from funds that came from government employees' pensions.
But a source that worked for Sekunjalo said Cishe and Ngqame used to frequent its offices at the Cape Town International Convention Centre to use its facilities.
Other organisations that received shares through the same vendor-financed deals include: The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu), which has 12- million shares, according to the register;
Isakhiwo Group, which received five million shares; and
Cosatu's investment arm, Kopano Ke Matla, which received two million shares. Another trade union federation, Fedusa, has been embroiled in a scandal since it emerged that Difeme Investments, an entity whose sole director is the union's general secretary, Dennis George, got three million discounted shares, worth R129m at the time of listing.
George was suspended after the union denied it gave him permission to negotiate the allocation of shares on its behalf.
He has said that he did not personally benefit from the AYO listing.
The final AYO share register also shows that Fedusa is supposed to have been allocated eight million shares at the discounted price. The discounted shares allocated to Difeme, Fedusa and Isakhiwo were paid for by 3 Laws Capital, an investment company owned by Survé.
The only listed active director of Isakhiwo Group could not be reached for comment.
George referred the Sunday Times to a statement he released this week in which he denied personally benefiting from AYO shares or having received a special dividend of R900,000. He also denied accepting shares on behalf of Fedusa.
"Difeme Investments was used as a nominee to warehouse AYO shares until such time as Fedusa and/or its affiliates set up companies to take up AYO shares," George said in the statement.
But Fedusa president Godfrey Selematsela said yesterday that the union had never had any discussion around AYO or shares allocated to the federation.
"I chair meetings and for the period in question there was never a time where we discussed Difeme. Difeme we came to know when we saw that in the newspapers, which equally amazed us," he said.
Selematsela said Fedusa had instituted an investigation into the whole saga.
Sactwu could not be reached for comment. Its general secretary, Andre Kriel, told radio talk station 702 two weeks ago that they were offered and accepted the shares as part of broad-based black empowerment scheme and not for personal benefit.
"We never understood that those shares were offered to us for the benefit of any individual in the organisation.
"The issue of BEE is a principle that we support. We don't see any reason why workers should not benefit from economic advantages like that," he said.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali confirmed the federation's investment arm Kopano Ke Matla had received two million shares through Sactwu. He referred all queries to the textiles union.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.