About 7,500 employees at Oakbay Investments will lose their jobs at the end of May if the Gupta-owned company’s bank accounts remain closed, staff at the company wrote in an open letter to banks on Wednesday.
In a letter addressed to Barclays Africa CEO Maria Ramos, FNB CEO Jacques Celliers, Standard Bank CEO Ben Kruger and Nedbank CEO Michael Brown, the staff pleaded with them to “reopen the bank accounts so that we do not have to suffer” as they have “not done anything wrong”.
Oakbay’s public relations team – led by world-renowned firm Bell Pottinger – has stepped up attempts to change the dialogue around its company after the Gupta family resigned from all their positions and jumped on a jet to Dubai earlier this month.
That followed increasing political heat this year due to allegations that they influenced President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and former finance minister Des van Rooyen, as well as offering ministerial posts to Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.
“We are not rich people,” employee representatives P Mosomane and R Russo wrote. “We are not politically connected. We have not captured the state. We have never offered any politician a job.
“We do not know if any of the allegations against the Gupta family or Oakbay’s management are true. We do not care.
“All we care about is providing for our families. If you do not open Oakbay’s bank accounts, we cannot be paid and Oakbay cannot pay its bills.
“If by the end of May the accounts remain closed, Oakbay’s businesses will close. That means that thousands of us will be without a job.”
Oakbay’s auditor KPMG, the top four banks, and Oakbay’s JSE sponsor Sasfin Capital all cut ties with the Guptas in March.
Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa told staff in the 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,” he said. “We are doing everything in our power to ensure this does not happen.
“We find it totally unacceptable that you‚ our employees‚ and your families could potentially have to suffer as a result of the political campaign against us.”