Gupta's Oakbay employees march to banks with demands

By Drum Digital
26 April 2016

Johannesburg - Employees of Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments have started their protest march to major banks on Tuesday to demand that the company's accounts be reopened.

Armed with placards with phrases such as "think about our families", "no salary, no survival" and "help #SaveOakbayJobs", a small group of protesters started the march ahead of the 11:00 starting time.

The protest began in Nugget Street, where they handed over a memorandum of demands at Absa Towers. From there the employees will proceed down Rahima Moosa and Simmonds streets to hand memorandums to FNB and Standard Bank, chief superintendent Wayne Minnaar said.

The protest was expected to start at 11:00 and end at 13:00 and traffic would be diverted.

Oakbay's auditor KPMG, the top four banks, and Oakbay’s JSE sponsor Sasfin Capital cut ties with the Gupta family in March.

Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa told staff in a letter that the closure of its bank accounts “made it virtually impossible to continue to do business in South Africa”.

"Without bank accounts we may find ourselves in a position where we are unable to pay you‚ our valued employees. We are doing everything in our power to ensure this does not happen."

He called it a “political campaign”.

In a letter, staff appealed to Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos, FNB CEO Jacques Celliers, Standard Bank CEO Ben Kruger, and Nedbank CEO Michael Brown to reopen their bank accounts so they did not have to suffer as they had not done anything wrong.

DA snubs Guptas' Oakbay for meeting on banks

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday refused to meet Howa, who apparently wrote to the party requesting a meeting regarding being blacklisted by SA's banks.

DA MP David Maynier, who is their shadow minister of finance, said in a statement on Monday that Howa wrote to DA leader Mmusi Maimane on 21 April requesting a meeting.

“Unsurprisingly, the purpose of the meeting would have been to request assistance in appealing to the banks to review their decision to terminate their business relationship with Oakbay Investments,” said Maynier.

At least two of South Africa’s top four banks said they haven’t been approached for a meeting by government to explain the termination of their relationships with Oakbay Investments, Fin24 reported earlier on Monday.

On Thursday, Jeff Radebe, Minister of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation caused a stir when he said three cabinet ministers – Zwane, Oliphant and Gordhan – would meet with the top four banks to find out why they didn’t want to do business with “a certain company”.

Banks still in dark on Gupta talks with ministers

Neither Standard Bank nor Nedbank were willing to confirm whether the three ministers had approached them for a meeting, while Absa and First National Bank (FNB) said they haven’t had such requests from government.

Cas Coovadia, CEO of the Banking Association of South Africa, earlier issued a press statement, saying “an array of regulations”, including the Fica compelled financial services institutions to conduct due diligence on clients, “particularly those of a substantive nature and those that are in the public domain”.

“A bank will take these matters into account when considering ongoing relationships with clients, and will take appropriate action, based on the circumstances,” Coovadia said.

Oakbay did not respond to a request for comment on an apparent meeting with the DA.

Source: News24

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