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Standard Bank forced to keep Sekunjalo accounts open, following last-ditch application for leave to appeal

Standard Bank forced to keep Sekunjalo accounts open, following last-ditch application for leave to appeal
A Standard Bank logo. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings Iqbal Survé. (Photo: Gallo Images / Wessel Oosthuizen)

Sekunjalo Group's legal battle with Standard Bank and other banks continues, as they launch an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The Sekunjalo Group has confirmed that it filed an application for leave to appeal with the Constitutional Court on Monday, 7 August, in a last-ditch effort to keep Standard Bank from closing its bank accounts — adding that this is separate from the Equality Court action Sekunjalo has brought against nine banks for discrimination and arbitrarily closing the group’s accounts.

In a statement issued shortly after 7pm on 10 August, Sekunjalo acknowledged that Standard Bank has postponed its action and that Sekunjalo bank accounts will remain operational. However, while the company acknowledged the extension, the statement noted that the Sekunjalo Group reserves its rights to interdict Standard Bank and join it to the Equality Court action.

Towards the end of July this year, the Competition Appeal Court (CAC), handed down a judgment in favour of Standard Bank, Access Bank and Mercantile Bank, finding that there was no evidence that the banks directly coordinated with each other in refusing to deal with the Sekunjalo Group.

The CAC found there was no legal, let alone factual basis to find that Standard Bank contravened the Competition Act, and costs were awarded in Standard Bank’s favour. Given the favourable ruling, Standard Bank re-instated its decision to terminate banking services to the Sekunjalo Group.

However, a Standard Bank spokesman said that in light of Sekunjalo’s application to the Constitutional Court, for leave to appeal the decision of the CAC, the bank has agreed, “for the time being to hold off on implementing its decision”.

Standard Bank confirmed that it will be opposing the appeal to the Constitutional Court. The postponement of the closure of the bank accounts will hold until Saturday, 16 September 2023.

Sekunjalo management contends that the Competition Commission investigation into accusations of collusion and anti-competitive behaviour, brought by the wider Sekunjalo Group of Companies against the country’s major banks, is still underway.

This is bizarre because the Competition Appeal Court found that:

  • There was no evidence that any of the banks directly coordinated with each other in refusing to deal with the Sekunjalo Group. Indeed, Standard Bank had not yet made a decision to refuse banking services at the time the application was heard.
  • There was no legal or factual, basis to find that the three banks had contravened the Competition Act. For that reason, the CAC held that no order for interim relief should have been granted against Standard Bank by the Competition Tribunal. DM 
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