A Transformation Charlatan Exposed?

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“But what is unique to South Africa is that something happened 12 or 18 months ago when Alide Dasnois, the editor of the Cape Times, was fired. It was clear to everyone why that happened. Don’t talk of transformation as a ruse. That shift forced people to think. Journalists have been pushed out of newsrooms and everyone is quietly accepting of this. We are not challenging those in power,” said Hassan

She said several things had happened around the dismissal of Dasnois. “We saw the politicisation of the media coupled with the commercial under the guise of transformation, the demanding of editorial content and the introduction of self-censorship,” Hassan said.

Transforming the media, in so many ways Daily Maverick 15/6/2015

Of the ten media houses analysed, four have no Africans on their boards. This includes M& G Media Ltd, Media 24, Independent Media and Daily Maverick.

Who runs SA’s media is a black-and-white issue Mail & Guardian 4/1/2019

From the moment Iqbal Survé was given control of the biggest group of English newspapers in the country via an initially-clandestine Public Investment Corporation (PIC) soft loan – which he has subsequently declined to repay – the Sekunjalo Independent Media mantra was ‘transformation’.

What this meant in practice was transforming white staff out of their jobs – a favourite pre-occupation of the ANC –  and they were overtly threatened in an article by the newly-appointed Karima Brown and Vukani Mde which was headlined Takeover is focused on transformation.

Brown and Mde, like their employer ANC acolytes of note , had been appointed by Iqbal Survé after writing an article which was supportive of Jacob Zuma. In short order the doyen of labour reporters, Terry Bell, had his column terminated and an appeal for his reinstatement by Patrick Craven was contemptuously dismissed.  Shortly thereafter, the team that had put together a front page Madiba obituary which Time voted as one of the best in the world – Alide Dasnois and Tony Weaver and Janet Heard – had also left Iqbal Survé’s employ after experiencing a venomous campaign in which they were targeted.

Staff, renowned in their fields and with decades of exemplary service and loyal commitment, received a threatening letter from Survé’s lawyers, something without precedent in South African media history.

Dasnois was dismissed and Heard and Weaver had their lives made so unpleasant they opted to leave. Their example was quickly followed by the resignation of four more editors within a few weeks, Philani Mgwaba, Moshoeshoe Monare, Chris Whitfield and Makhudu Sefara. This exodus was also without precedent in South African newspaper history.

At 50 seconds of this November 2014 SABC interview, Survé claimed that he had attracted 20 employees from other newspapers including a number of editors, a statement which, like so many of his statements,  turned out to be devoid of truth.

At the same time, the newly-appointed replacement for Dasnois, Gasant Abarder (who had absconded from his previous employer) started dismissing beloved columnists like John Scott, not because he had done anything wrong or because there was no demand for his writing, but because he was white.

Brown and Mde wrote a follow-up article headlined Media freedom cannot be divorced from transformation which was published on 9 May 2016 to distract attention from the fact that, on that day, Iqbal Survé settled with Alide Dasnois rather than face cross-examination under oath about the allegations in her court papers that he had verbally abused her at a trumped-up disciplinary hearing. His appalling behaviour towards her continued even after she had left his employ.

Ironically, Karima Brown and Vukani Mde and Gasant Abarder all subsequently severed their ties with Iqbal Survé to escape a company which has become indelibly tainted.

At the same time Survé has, since the start of the Sekunjalo takeover of the Indy titles, routinely accused rival newspaper companies such as Tiso Blackstar and Naspers of being ‘anti-transformation’.

At 52 seconds of this SABC interview Survé says of the other newspaper companies: ‘And it’s all anti-transformation. It’s all designed to stop this country from becoming truly liberated’.

And, speaking at a meeting of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in Durban in June 2017 Survé said: ‘Media transformation in South Africa is very slow’ and, according to his own newspapers he cited Sekunjalo Independent Media as a ‘lone star’ among South African media companies in its pace of transformation.

In 2016, speaking  to a small group of local businessmen at the Old Mutual Conference centre in Cape Town,  he lashed out at his vastly more successful competitor, Naspers. He told them that Naspers was the greatest single threat that democracy in this country faced – not poverty, not crime, not corruption, not an absence of preventative maintenance, not grotesque levels of ANC government incompetence – Naspers…

At this meeting he also praised the Fallists who were supported and encouraged by the Cape Times during their criminal depredations which resulted in infrastructural damage which will cost hundreds of millions of rands to repair, brought the country into international disrepute and whose persecution of renowned UCT cardiologist, Professor Bongani Myosi, resulted in him taking his own life according to his bereaved family. Survé’s role in this appalling tragedy has been made a matter of record by Jonathan Jansen in his book As by Fire – The end of the South African University and by UCT honours student, Ricky Stoch in her thesis.

The IOL article goes on: He accused these companies of still being untransformed, adding that, by contrast, the companies he is associated with are the most transformed in the country.

What then is one to make of the following sentence in a recent and detailed  two-page Mail & Guardian analysis by Carlos Amato about transformation in local print media:

Of the ten media houses analysed, four have no Africans on their boards. This includes M& G Media Ltd, Media 24, Independent Media and Daily Maverick.

So Iqbal Survé tells international audiences that Sekunjalo Independent Media is a transformation leader in the country, he attacks his rival media companies on SABC with its audience of millions saying that they have an ‘anti-transformation agenda’ and yet, according to the Mail & Guardian article, he does not have a single black African on his board five years after he took control of the largest group of English newspapers in the country!

Intellidex analysis

Furthermore, in a 2016 Intellidex analysis of transformation in the media which was published on the Media Online website, Tiso Blackstar – owner of newspapers like the Sunday Times, Business Day and the Daily Dispatchwas found to have a 58,47 black ownership percentage on the BEE scorecard compared with 55% for the newspaper company owned by the ‘Struggle Doctor’.

Survé has never disputed the veracity of the Intellidex research and yet he relentlessly attacks Tiso Blackstar and does not respond when he is challenged to provide audit reports on his Sekunjalo Independent Media company which he has driven into insolvency.

What does Karima (The Disruptor) Brown make of this in the light of the following statement she made in an interview with Michael Bratt of the Media Online website?

“The normative dominant narrative in South Africa is captured in neo-liberal, white privilege and that is perceived as normal. I’ve always argued that my job as a journalist is to challenge that dominant narrative.

Given her stated goal in journalism – which I accept in good faith – I trust that she will shortly be making known her condemnatory  views on the Mail & Guardian revelation that Iqbal Survé does not have a single black African on his board five years after he started ripping the intellectual heart out of Independent Media by ridding it of its finest talents.

What is ironic, though, is that when Cyril Ramphosa called at his investment summit for local companies to demonstrate their faith in the local economy by making investments, Naspers was one of the companies that responded with a R4.6 billion commitment. There has been no indication of an investment from Sekunjalo Independent Media which, according to two unchallenged and undisputed articles by Dougie Oakes, is chaotically bankrupt and where lies and censorship by omission and exploitation of staff are routine.

But wait, there’s more!

At the afore-mentioned meeting in the Old Mutual Conference Centre Iqbal Survé said:

“This institution does not belong to white people. The bulk of the money it gets in comes from the pensions of black South Africans.”.

Hello?

Really?

Like the billion rand soft loan granted him by the PIC to purchase the largest group of English newspapers in the country which Survé is now declining to repay?

And which the PIC has happily written off?

Money derived from the monthly stop order deductions from the salaries of some 300 000 civil servants and pensioners, mostly black?

Reasonable quality of life

Money that they hoped would be soundly and safely invested by the PIC so that they would have a reasonable quality of life in their twilight years?

This is a matter of profound public interest which Cosatu needs to take seriously by ending its complicit silence.

The PIC says it is ‘assessing its interests’ but as Oakes points out, the chances of the money being repaid with a reasonable rate of interest is effectively zero and there is ample historic precedent to bolster his contention, starting with the looting of the VBS Mutual Bank.

  •        In 2009 the Industrial Development Corporation was pressured to lend Alliance Mining R120 million with the main beneficiaries being Matthews Phosa and his very, very close friend, Matilda Gaboo. Upon receipt of the money, the company closed its doors, the money disappeared and no attempt has been made to recoup it. That’s how the ANC operates.
  •        In 2011 the news broke that Enoch Godongwana, an ANC parliamentarian, became an overnight millionaire after he had used his influence to get government business. It later transpired that he had lied to an inquiry about the Canyon Springs scam which saw R100 million in textile workers pensions disappear without trace, never to be recovered.

So impressed was the ANC with his obvious skills that it made him chairman of its economic transformation committee and he subsequently repaid that faith when he tried to  pressurise our banks to support the Guptas.

  •        In 2017 it became known that alleged Gupta associate and deputy minister of public enterprises, Ben ‘Baby Mama’ Maartens, had pressured the Industrial Development  Corporation to lend his mistress and the mother of his child, Lorraine Masipa, R60 million and that she had spent it all in a year of wanton indulgence. Nothing further has been heard and nothing further will be heard – that’s how the ANC operates.
  •        Last year the Constitutional Court ordered former National Director of Public Prosecutions, Mxolisi Nxasana, to repay the R10 million golden handshake with which Jacob Zuma bribed him to make way for Shaun Abrahams. He says he has spent it all and no effort will be made to recover the money – that’s how the ANC operates.

Censorship by omission

The news that Survé has reneged on his PIC repayment obligation has not been communicated to the readers of his newspapers or those who log on to the IOL website. Censorship by omission has long been a ploy used by those who seek to hide the truth from their audience. It is in that context that you must judge the veracity of a statement that he made in an interview with Mandy de Waal for Daily Maverick shortly after the news broke that, with the assistance of civil servant pension money he had, as an overt supporter of the Zuma  faction of the ANC, bought the largest group of English newspapers in the country with civil servant pension money which now seems unlikely to be repaid:

“If you know anything about me you know that I operate with incredible integrity.”

In the meantime, senior staff continue to flee the tatterdemalion Sekunjalo Independent Media company where respected columnists like Azad Essa are dismissed to appease Survé’s Chinese backers, editors like Wally Mbhele are fired to  appease the ANC, he equates one of the country’s best financial reporters, Carol Paton, with Nazism and his media peers did not trust him enough to make him part of the Guptaleaks investigation. Four years after the takeover, Sekunjalo Independent Media has become a company where  political bias is blatant  – as is ethnic bias  – and the quality of the product declines by the day.

Ethical journalism in South Africa, as Sanef has pointed out, has been significantly undermined as a result of the PIC loan to Iqbal Survé.

Three years ago James Myburgh of Politicsweb ascertained that Survé was making no effort to repay the PIC loan and that the interest was mounting.

Instead of providing of providing a cogent response in a matter of significant public interest, the confidante and business associate of the late Brett Kebble and aspirant partner with the Guptas, dismissed Myburgh as a racist.

In October last year President Cyril Ramaphosa set up the Lex Mpati commission of inquiry into PIC ‘improprieties’ and gave it six months to complete its work. This was welcomed by the UDM.

That was three months ago, nothing further has been heard and the six-month deadline is fast approaching. What is one to make of this? More than three hundred thousand GEPF members, either working civil servants or pensioners, most of whom are black, are entitled to know. Why are they not being told?

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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.

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