Yekani CEO not blaming comms minister’s hubby for smart factory closure

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Yekani Group CEO Siphiwe Cele.
Yekani Group CEO Siphiwe Cele.

Siphiwe Cele, CEO of R1 billion smart factory Yekani Manufacturing, has refuted claims in a Sunday paper that his business is going under because he refused to sell a controlling stake to Thato Abrahams, the husband of communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Yesterday, Sunday Times reported that Yekani, which until August last year built MultiChoice's Explora decoders, alleged the Industrial Development Corporation introduced Abrahams to him as an “investor” who would buy a “majority stake” in his business “for R1 billion”.

It alleged Ndabeni-Abrahams was deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services at the time, raising a potential conflict of interest because Yekani, which also made smartphones, fell under her sphere of influence.

However, the report said after he declined to sell to Abrahams, his business ran into trouble and his pleas for government help – to save his company and the jobs of more than 500 employees – fell on deaf ears.

Yekani – an information and communications technology company – officially launched the R1 billion electronics factory in the East London Industrial Development Zone in June 2018.

However, the company is facing liquidation after Standard Bank called in a loan of R200 million and following Yekani’s failure to make repayments, liquidation processes are under way.

In a statement today, Cele says Yekani Manufacturing has noted the Sunday Times article with the headline: “Yekani CEO blames Thato Abrahams for IT firm’s R68m debt”.

The company would like to categorically refute this statement and distance itself from the claims made by the Sunday Times, he notes.

“Yekani would like to re-iterate that it does not blame minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her husband – or anyone else both in the public and the private sector – for the financial issues that the company is experiencing currently.”

Yekani and its group CEO in particular take full responsibility for its current state and its priority remains to do everything in its power to protect and save the jobs of its employees, the company says.

“The group CEO of Yekani would like to thank the National Department of Trade and Industry, the Eastern Cape office of the premier, Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, the East London Industrial Development Zone for all their support and willingness to assist in saving the jobs of our employees.”

Cele says Yekani and Standard Bank’s last court appearance was on 14 January – where a judgement determining the future of Yekani was going to be handed down.

The outcome of this court appearance was a postponement until 18 February – this therefore means this matter is now sub-judice.

“In an effort to respect the court processes, Yekani is currently unable to provide further details or comment on any rumours around this matter as it runs the risk of prejudicing or interfering with the pending court proceedings and its outcome.”

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