JSE-listed technology investment group, AYO Technology Solutions Limited (AYO), has filed an urgent high court application to interdict First National Bank (FNB) from terminating its transactional banking facilities with effect from 3 May 2021.
FNB provided no reasons for its decision to terminate its banking relationship with AYO notwithstanding AYO’s requests for it to do so. This has left AYO with no choice but to apply for an urgent interdict against FNB. AYO believes that FNB’s decision is both unlawful and unconstitutional.
AYO is one of the largest black empowerment ICT groups in South Africa. It operates across many technology segments, it has strong empowerment credentials, its revenues exceed more than R2 billion annually and it has more than 500 customers. In its latest stated report, AYO reflected a NAV of R4,3 billion and included amongst its shareholders are the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI). The AYO group employs more than 1200 people with an annual salary bill of R430 million and an approximate annual taxation of R495 million.
AYO believes that FNB’s decision is patently unfair, as several companies that have admitted to fraud and corruption and are the subjects of on-going investigations, remain FNB clients. Such actions are contrary to FNB’s obligation to treat its customers fairly. FNB’s actions risk being perceived as being anti-black business transformation, perceptions which our country can ill afford at this juncture.
AYO wishes to state that neither it, nor any of its executives, have been found guilty of any corrupt activities. AYO also believes that the Mpati Commission of Inquiry did not make any adverse findings against it. It is regrettable that certain sections of the media have cast such aspersions on AYO.
It is also regrettable that FNB has sought to act in a manner, which AYO believes is reflective of a gross imbalance of power between client and bank, which was reminiscent during apartheid, and not in the spirit of a mutual client-bank business relationship that is being encouraged since 1994.
AYO is of the view that the decision by FNB is discriminatory, restrictive of trade and in violation of its constitutional rights. Furthermore, AYO believes that the law should be developed in relation to the bank and its clients so that it cannot act in such an arbitrary manner. This includes:
- Section 9 which relates to the right to equality and non-discrimination,
- Section 22 which relates to freedom of trade, occupation and profession,
- Section 23 which relates to the rights to fair labour practices and
- Section 25 which relates to the rights against arbitrary deprivation of property.
AYO was formed more than 20 years ago when President Mandela emphasized the need for black businesses to participate in the economy of the country. During this period, AYO acquired a number of businesses and applied its transformation ethos which resulted in a significant contribution of black ICT professionals to the ICT landscape.
AYO has played a critical role and continues to do so, in supporting software systems in the public and private healthcare sector relating to the COVID pandemic. AYO subsidiaries are providing critical and essential support to the healthcare sector in relation to the Covid-pandemic. The pandemic has caused mass unemployment and FNB’s decision threatens to leave tens of thousands of people and their dependents without income.
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