Ed Herbst: The ‘New Dawn’ shines more brightly

JOHANNESBURG — Veteran journalist Ed Herbst in this article unpacks the latest revelations involving Independent Media boss, Dr Iqbal Survé. The Sunday Times on the weekend ran front page leads detailing how Survé has allegedly been splashing out on new properties in Cape Town. The spotlight is shifting on Survé amid a Commission of Inquiry into the dealings at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). Survé-linked companies have received financing from the PIC previously. – Gareth van Zyl

By Ed Herbst*

At Davos last year, Cyril Ramaphosa promised a relentless campaign against corruption and, for me, the ‘New Dawn’ horizon grew a lot pinker when Tiso Blackstar court reporter Karyn Maughn broke the news last week that Rubben Mohlaloga had been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Ed Herbst

In a timeline backgrounder on this website, I correctly predicted that he would shortly join another leading ANC snouter, John Block, in tangerine haute couture.

Ramaphosa has been criticised for ‘ruling by commission’ but I’m loving it and, after reading the Sunday Times this morning, I can’t wait for the Lex Mpati Commission into PIC shenanigans to resume.

Bobby Jordan has been a member of the Cape Town office of the Sunday Times for as long as I can remember and he has done some brilliant investigative reporting into the  R140m purchase of seven apartments in the exclusive and hugely expensive V&A Silo development by that most philanthropic and humble of men  Dr Iqbal Survé who is also justifiably renowned for his chivalry and grace.

The intro to the article, headlined Survé’s ritzy Silo spree reads:

Iqbal Survé splurged almost R140m on seven luxury V&A Waterfront apartments in Cape Town in an 11-month spree just before it emerged that one of his companies defaulted on repayments to the Public Investment Corp (PIC).

Deeds office records link Survé to seven apartments in the V&A’s No 3 Silo, all bought between October 2017 and August 2018.

October 2017?

Hello?

Really?

In April last year – 12 months after he started buying the Waterfront properties  that only the ultra-wealthy can afford – he gave an interview to the SABC and at one minute and two seconds of the YouTube clip he says:

I am a danger to them (rival media companies) because I live a  simple life’.

He repeats the point at one minute and 39 seconds:

‘I live in the same house that I have lived in for two decades. I have a very simple life so they don’t like that because they see that as a danger – they want you to be materialistic, they want you to be taken up by all of that so that you forget about the struggles of the people in this country.’

So, a year after he spent R140m on seven apartments in a multi-millionaire’s high-security enclave, he tells the country that he still lives a ‘simple life’ in the same house that he has occupied for decades!

‘Shameless’ as Ferial Haffajee points out.

That reminded me another interview which Survé had with the state broadcaster a year after the PIC enabled him to gain control of the Indy newspapers with a loan which he is now refusing to repay.

At 25 seconds he says:

‘The next time we speak, I will predict that our circulation will have increased between 5 and 10% per title. We have attracted 20 people from our competitors. We have attracted a number of senior editors. The fact is Independent’s on a very high growth pathway and I think it is going to emerge as the most successful media house in the country in a very short space of time.’

That entire statement is devoid of truth.

Independent Media is insolvent, he did not attract a single editor and, last year, the daily circulation of the Cape Times dipped below 30,000 for the first time in its modern history.

Last year three editors left Independent Media and, on page 31 of the Wits University annual ‘State of the Newsroom’ report we read that, with the exception of the editor Aneez Salie, the Cape Times does not have a single person in its newsroom with 16 years’ of experience or more.

It shows – the routine incompetence of the Cape Times is constantly on display.

This is a consequence of a purge of white staff which started immediately Iqbal Survé took control. Two uncontested articles by the recently-retired political editor of the Cape Times, Dougie Oakes, provide disturbing evidence of why this has occurred.

In strong contrast, Die Burger – the other morning newspaper in Cape Town – has ten staff members who have 16 years’ experience or more.

Keep in mind that, at the time of the Sekunjalo takeover, the Cape Times  possessed such a formidable array of journalistic talent that, with a skeleton staff, antiquated IT equipment and an extremely tight deadline, it was nevertheless capable of producing a memorial tribute to Nelson Mandela which Time rated as one of the best in the world.

But perhaps Iqbal Survé genuinely believes that, surrounded by bodyguards, he really does live a simple life in the Silo complex of the V&A – and all his other grandiose claims.

I say this because when the Mail & Guardian’s Khadija Patel interviewed Survé in his office in the Silo complex last week, she reached an interesting conclusion in the concluding paragraph of her article:

What Survé’s success in business has bought him is the ultimate luxury — a sense of reality that is uninterrupted by opinions, or facts, that contradict his own. Surrounded by his staff scurrying about the office in the Waterfront, hanging onto his every word, he is still alone in himself, with just his thoughts, his ideas — and his hubris.

Like Magda Wierzycka I look forward to Survé’s testimony before the Mpati Commission and, like her, I am troubled by the somnolence of the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

  • Ed Herbst is a veteran journalist who these days writes in his own capacity.