Gupta-owned Sahara CEO Stephan Nel on Tuesday opened a case of intimidation after an anonymous person allegedly phoned to warn him against approaching Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for assistance regarding Oakbay’s blacklisted bank accounts.
The phone call at 12:30 on Monday followed a radio show “ambush” by Nel and three other Oakbay executives, where they phoned in to Power FM on Sunday at 22:00 to ask Gordhan to help them find a solution to their banking crisis, which could affect 7 500 employees.
Oakbay said a charge of intimidation was filed at Midrand Police Station and a case number was logged as 842/06/2016.
An officer at Midrand Police Station told Fin24 via phone that the case number would only be confirmed once it was logged into the system on Wednesday.
“The call, which was placed directly to Mr Nel’s office number, aggressively warned against any further appeals to Mr Gordhan regarding the reopening of Oakbay’s bank accounts,” Oakbay Investments said in a statement.
Oakbay, which is owned by the Guptas, owns companies like Sahara, The New Age, ANN7 and Optimum coal mine.
In his response on radio, Gordhan said he had met representatives of Oakbay over the banking issue and said: “Where Treasury can assist, it will go out of its way to do so. We will not stand still. But we require the right kind of approaches on these kinds of matters that will find constructive solutions.”
When the fourth executive phoned in after he had given his answer, Gordhan replied: “I have indicated that a channel that existed will be activated. There are options that are not being undertaken (that can be looked at).”
Oakbay said on Tuesday that “despite being appalled at the lack of progress and momentum, Oakbay was relieved to hear Mr. Gordhan reassure the company that channels which exist will be activated and options that are not currently being undertaken, will be looked at”.
Nel writes to Gordhan
Oakbay also sent Fin24 a letter Nel wrote to Gordhan on Tuesday, requesting a meeting over Sahara’s closed bank accounts.
He reminded Gordhan how he had to retrench 140 employees in April due to the business bank accounts being shut down by FNB, Absa, Standard Bank and Nedbank.
“I can confirm that vital banking services have still not been restored neither to us (Sahara), nor for that matter other businesses across the Oakbay group, despite the decision by our shareholders (the Guptas) to step away from the day-to-day involvement in our business.”
The Guptas and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane all resigned from their executive positions in April.
Nel told Gordhan that he will be forced to make further strategic decisions that will result in more job losses.
“The decisions I will be forced to make over the coming weeks will not only affect the livelihoods of the remaining 103 employees at Sahara, but their families and dependents too,” he said.
Regarding the Power FM “ambush”, Nel told Gordhan that the “engagement” was “misconstrued in some quarters”.
“I would like to assure you the calls related to the extremely difficult position we find ourselves in following the banking blacklisting crisis at Oakbay,” he wrote.
He also asked the minister to “publicly condemn acts of intimidation” following the alleged phone call intimidating Nel.
Responding to Gordhan’s statement that he serves 55 million South Africans in their efforts to have decent work in a stable economic environment, Nel said he can start with saving the jobs at Oakbay.
“I humbly plead that you find some way to help us make a small start with our own employees, and I, therefore, request that you meet with me, at your earliest convenience,” he wrote.
Fin24 had not received comment from Treasury regarding the letter before publication.