By: Feroza Petersen
ON APRIL 29, as an employee of AYO Technology Solutions (AYO) I was dismayed, disappointed and gravely disturbed after hearing that Judge Gregory Wright of the Johannesburg High Court had declined to grant interim relief to AYO in preventing First National Bank (FNB) from terminating AYO’s transactional banking facilities.
The decision not only has ramifications for the operations of AYO as a group of companies, but on a more personal level, too – that of myself and my colleagues. Our level of concern was represented in the fact that as employees, many of us had partnered and taken the unusual step of submitting an intervening application to support AYO’s request for urgent interim relief.
We could not sit back and allow FNB to terminate AYO’s facilities, which, to our eyes, has been done without just cause and without due regard to the actual people whose lives are ultimately affected – us.
Yet, FNB’s actions are indicative of a far greater rot throughout the business world, where individual decisions motivated by personal gain, political favour or pure power are made without consequence to the people, whose livelihoods and whose money it is that keeps them in business in the first place.
AYO is a going concern which, despite the muck flung at it and the repeated factual errors that are spread by a gossiping media, steadfastly continued to deliver its operations. It is fair in its dealings with people and the majority of its employees, like me, who work there because we know we make a difference to the transformation of the South African economy and its greater society. We are fairly recompensed for our efforts and those funds flow back into the fiscus, via the banking sector – more often than not.
But why should we support a banking sector which clearly does not support us, or the economy?
In FNB’s decision to close the accounts and in the court’s ruling that in a matter of days AYO would conceivably not be able to transact and therefore face the possibility of a delisting, neither paid sufficient heed to the possibility that their actions could likely result in adding to the unemployment rate.
People in “ivory towers“ rarely look at the ground, so perhaps they are unaware that the unemployment rate in our country is escalating at an alarming rate, which affects their own industry significantly. As it is, it stands at 32.5% as reported in the October-December quarter.
This means that 7.2 million people were unemployed, up from 30.8% in the previous three months. South Africa’s unemployment rate jumped to a record high in the fourth quarter of last year as the economy was further battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Compared to a year ago, total employment fell by 1.4 million people, while the number of people who were not economically active rose by 1.5 million.
Yet, while this latest round of attacks against the company I proudly associate myself with continues, AYO may have lost this particular battle, it has not lost the war. The events of the past month have uncovered a deep-rooted rot and double standards that are being exposed. The statistics do not lie.
Transformation RSA, for example, laid a criminal charge of corruption and money laundering against FNB for providing banking services to EOH after EOH admitted to overcharging for Microsoft licences procured for the Department of Defence, to the tune of R40 million.
EOH admitted this wrongdoing, yet its banking facilities remain open with FNB. One does have to ask why EOH would receive preferential treatment and not AYO who, let us be clear, has a clean bill of health with repeated clean audit.
How cold-hearted can you be Mr Frederik Basson of FNB, when you say that Ayo was given four days to respond to the application? Four days? And just like that, the banking facilities are closed?
I thank Numsa, Saftu, Sanco, PSCU, Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Black Business Council and the thousands of individuals across South Africa, have also come out in support of exposing racial discrimination by some of the banks of South Africa, including FNB and Absa. These are conversations that need to happen, and the economic bias needs to be addressed.
FNB’s actions in the first instance and the court’s inability to see the immediate ramifications of potentially adding to the unemployment rate, are short-sighted at best. And the worst, well, I’ll leave you to consider that for yourself.
While the law argues on reason and the “facts” before them, they are also allowed to employ discretion. Was this the case for us? Whereas it would appear that the banks decide the fate of people on a whim, without reason, without due cause of care for their actions … so long as they make more money on the interest owed to them by defaulting citizens.
We can no longer tolerate this behaviour and we can no longer allow banks to decide the fate of our future. We need our jobs. We need our economic freedom.
The decision to summarily close AYO’s accounts and then to deny it the relief it sought is a challenge to our fragile democracy and should be a wake-up call to the banking fraternity.
The people are restless … let them not eat cake.
Feroza Petersen is an AYO Technology Solutions employee
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE