ANA Retrenchments – More Questions Than Answers


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“The liquidation of Sekunjalo Holdings would be the logical conclusion to the impasse between the company and the Public Investment Corporation, PIC chair Reuel Khoza says.

Speaking to Business Times this week, Khoza said the step would help protect  civil servant pensions.”

Sekunjalo liquidation ‘logical’ Asha Speckman Business Times 20/10/2019

The African News Agency wire service website proclaims that …

“When news breaks, we will know and we will tell you immediately, helping you to make better decisions faster.”

However, a fortnight after the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) raided Dr Iqbal Survé’s palatial offices in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, this news has still not been posted on the ANA website.

If you are not prepared to tell your own story, how can you compete on the African content with Reuters Africa and Bloomberg Africa?

A month ago Daily Maverick broke the news that ANA is retrenching most of its staff in its local operation.  This is puzzling because Survé bought ANA’s predecessor, SAPA, in March 2015 for R8 million yet it was valued at R2.7 billion in the pre-listing of Sagarmatha according to the Daily Maverick article by Sasha Planting:

“At the conclusion of the transactions, which involved the Survé family trust, ANA and Sagarmatha, ANA was revalued at a still high R2.7-billion. In the process, Survé landed up with 95.9% of Sagarmatha, which he achieved seemingly in exchange for 20% of ANA.”

If ANA’s 28 staff members could achieve such an astonishing increase in the company’s value – from R8million to R2.7 billion –  in just four years, why are they being retrenched?


It then became known that the ANA Chief Financial Officer, Lisa de Villiers had resigned, to be followed by the CEO, Grant Fredericks.

Moreover, I have been told that the majority of staff at ANA have opted for severance packages.

If your own ANA staff do not share your vision of a glorious future as the ‘Voice of Africa’ what chance does that vision have of becoming a reality?

One has to have empathy with those who have chosen – like so many others – to sever their ties with Sekunalo because their long-term futures seem anything but secure as the following examples indicate:

It is claimed that Sekunjalo Independent Media is technically insolvent and has – apparently from the outsetdeclined to repay its PIC loan despite servicing the loans provided by its Chinese investors. In addition, it has been threatened with liquidation and its auditors have decided to sever ties with Iqbal Survé. What is also clear is that Survé no longer has the backing of the governing faction in the ANC and this is understandable.

In response to questions  from the Media Online website about the forthcoming retrenchments, ANA spokesman Kaz Henderson said it was necessary to retrench staff locally in order to fund expansion to the north of us:

“…there was demand for African stories, but not as much for South African stories, hence the decision to focus on Africa. ANA had experienced “exceptional growth” on the continent, but not in South Africa.”

This does not seem credible.

If that is the case why are Reuters Africa and Bloomberg Africa not following Survé’s example and also retrenching their local staff?

If ANA is so cash-strapped that it has to retrench in its own backyard and, furthermore, its parent company is engaged in what seems to be a terminal battle with its main funder, the Public Investment Corporation,  what hope does it have of competing against trusted and long-standing African wire service giants like Reuters Africa and Bloomberg Africa?

They, unlike Sekunjalo Independent Media are not tainted by an accusation that they are willing to supress news of human rights abuses in China and can thus offer a more ethically-credible and commercially-viable product.

Given all of the above, the suggestion that the African News Agency could provide credible wire service opposition to Reuters Africa and Bloomberg Africa is manifestly risible and even the most cursory examination of the three websites makes that obvious.

In 2016 Survé retrenched dozens of Sekunjalo Independent Media news people – just before Christmas.

Now he is doing the same thing to his ANA staff.

At the LeisureNet inquiry 16 years ago Peter Gardener, its joint chief executive, blamed Iqbal Survé for the company’s demise. If Sekunjalo Independent Media goes to the wall, then the impact on the South African media landscape of Brett Kebble’s business associate and confidante will prove to be enormously damaging.

This is a matter of profound public interest because it also impacts not only our constitutionally-guaranteed right of access to information which affects us but also the long-term futures and quality of life in the twilight of their lives of close on two million government employees and current civil service pensioners.

At the end of the month the Mpati commission of inquiry – which has been attacked by Survé – will provide more clarity and greater insight into what has transpired since 2013 at Sekunjalo Independent Media and a better understanding of the future prospects of ANA and its few remaining staff.

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Ed Herbst started his news career as a photographer with the Natal Witness in 1968 but quickly switched to reporting while retaining an interest in photography. He joined the SABC in its Pretoria news office as a camera reporter in 1977, one year after television was introduced in South Africa. In 1978 he was seconded to the SABC’s Windhoek office for six months to cover the run-up to the country’s UN-monitored election and was then posted to the SABC’s Sea Point news office. He asked for early retirement in 2005 because of pervasive SABC corruption, news censorship and unaddressed abusive treatment of staff. From 2007 to 2009 he was employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality but became a pensioner when personal circumstances forced him to retire. He now writes without remuneration for local websites about the interface between media and politics. He is writing a book on media capture after 1994.