Peter Bruce described the piece below as “hilarious”. Having had papers served on myself and Biznews by a London law firm, I certainly didn’t share his mirth when this editorial appeared in Gupta Media earlier this week. There was even a fleeting moment of considering a counter suit. But I’d have to stand in a long line. Because there is a queue of South Africans lining to recover as much as they can of ill-gotten Gupta gains. The damage wrought on South Africa by this single family of Indian immigrants is incalculable. Bankers whisper of a R6bn profit banked by trading the Rand ahead of Nenegate. Marketing teams at public enterprises shake their heads at tens of millions splurged on worthless events hosted by Gupta Media. And then those hundreds of public sector contracts for various other goods and services procured from the family’s businesses. But it hasn’t just been financial. Ask those Eskom managers on long-term suspension after rejecting Gupta delivered coal because of poor quality. Or the team at Kumba which were forced to spend thousands of man hours defending the ludicrous minerals rights claims by ICT. The response from this rapacious family has been consistent: “We are gifted businessmen who generate big profits from anything we turn our hand to. We employ and reward Zuma family members because they, too, are gifted. We are scaring the pants off established South African businesses – the only way they can respond to our brilliance is by attacking our good name. All this talk of us appointing cabinet members is just lies spread by ANC infighting.” So, despite an avalanche of evidence exposing their strategy of employing bribery and corruption to extract profits wherever State levers were to be pulled, the Saxonwold clan sticks to this fantasy. And attack their enemies by using Gupta Media’s ANN7 and New Age newspaper to propagate the fiction. Like in this story republished below. Back home in KZN, the community tell me Atul arrived in South Africa with his family’s R1.3m fortune to set up business as a tailor. Pity for all of us that he never stuck to that plan. – Alec Hogg
By Pinky Khoabane of The New Age
Comments by BDFM’s editor-in-chief, Peter Bruce, that journalist Alec Hogg would have no difficulty raising funds for a defamation lawsuit by the Gupta family confirms the extent to which corporate media is embedded in the powerful networks of business and finance.
The latest spat between South Africa’s media and the Guptas stems from a story first published in the Financial Times of London that the Guptas invited Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas to a meeting at which they offered him the job of finance minister to succeed Nhlanhla Nene.
The Guptas have denied the story, going so far as to show Atul Gupta’s passport entry as proof that he was not in the country and couldn’t have been at such a meeting – evidence which has done nothing to stem the tide of accusations. In contrast, the allegations against the Guptas come with no evidence.
The narrative is out, you see, and the media bully boys must stick to it and make it stick in the minds of the citizenry.
The neatly constructed narrative that the Guptas are literally running the state has been persistent; covered in a series of stories by Bloomberg, BizNews, Hogg’s online publication, and other newspapers. It culminated last week in what the Financial Times of London called “state capture”.
The Guptas in turn, sent Hogg a legal letter. It is in response to this letter that Bruce wrote in his column, published in the Financial Mail’s online edition, that: “Firstly, Hogg is no pushover and he will not have much difficulty raising funds in the business community to fight a defamation suit.”
He has since backtracked, however, claiming that his comments were purely speculative: “I know absolutely nothing about Alec Hogg’s finances or his business. My comment about him effectively ‘crowd-funding’ funds to fight a potentially expensive legal battle was purely speculative,” The New Age reported.
But it is too little too late. Media institutions are owned by big corporations and rely on advertisers for their income.
They therefore publish to protect the interests of these two groups and their owners, albeit that they are a miniscule percentage compared to the rest of their stakeholders.
Sections of the SA media protect white capital. The Nkandla scandal should never be defended but the construction industry’s price fixing scandal in the 2010 Fifa World Cup stadia runs into billions of rands and pales in comparison and yet the column space dedicated to the latter is proportionally less despite the massive theft.
In protecting their turf, media employ a combination of tactics, including straightforward propaganda and scare mongering.
The narrative that we should be afraid of the Gupta family, which owns The New Age and ANN7, and the Sekunjalo consortium, led by Iqbal Survé, which bought the Independent Group, has taken various turns, culminating in the latest concept of “state capture” about the Guptas and questions on whether Survé is servicing the loan from the Public Investment Corporation.
For the first time, we have blacks with the financial muscle to challenge and break the media conglomerate in this country and the white-male club of this industry will not take it lying down.
Such is the desperation to protect white capital that the battle started five years ago when news broke that new black owners were entering the media industry is taking a dangerous turn which is becoming a battle to shape SA’s economy.