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Right of Reply: Survé threat #3: Biznews attacked my credibility at the PIC

Dr Iqbal Survé

Of the three threats Independent Newspapers’ chairman Iqbal Survé’s lawyers Webber Wentzel sent us yesterday, the one republished below is the most bizarre. It refers to our story that picked up on an article in the Financial Mail. No mention is made of Ann Crotty’s piece. Instead, Biznews is accused of “disturbing the sanctity” of Survé’s relationship with the PIC. Huh? Surely whatever “sanctity” existed would already have been severely disturbed already. Something which tends to happen when you don’t service your loans. The FM’s article asks a very direct question: Is Iqbal now stripping Independent’s assets? It is this question Survé and his lawyers should be addressing. Not some cock and bull about Biznews stuffing up his relationship with funders, which is an insult to the professionals serving at the PIC. Our reporting on the issue has been in the public interest. Survé should be applying his mind to giving the answers. Not using money from a pensioner-funded business to pay expensive lawyers to threaten those asking the right questions. Again, unless and until the FM withdraws its piece, the story stays. – Alec Hogg

FROM SELWYN HOCKEY OF WEBBER WENTZEL

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: BIZNEWS AND CAPE MESSENGER PUBLICATION “WHY DID IQBAL SURVE QUEEN
BEE TREAT SA TO A BIZARRE FAKE NEWS RANT? PRESSLY UNPICKS THE DETAILS”

1. We act for Dr Iqbal Surve (“our client”).

2. We refer to the introductory passage written by Jackie Cameron, which accompanied the article written by Donwald Pressly, published on Biznews, titled “Why did Iqbal Surve queen bee treat SA to a bizarre fake news rant? Pressly unpicks the details” and dated 6 March 2017(“the defamatory publication”).

3. The defamatory publication contains a significant amount of untrue and defamatory statements pertaining to our client and is indeed per se defamatory of our client. We do not intend traversing or responding, in this letter, to each and every untrue and defamatory statement contained in the defamatory publication. Our client’s rights to respond to the untrue and defamatory statements at the appropriate time and in the appropriate forum are expressly reserved.

4. The defamatory publication was clearly written and published with malice and with the intention to defame our client. The defamatory publication has and will have(as was the intention of the writer and publisher), the effect of impairing our client’s reputation, resulting in our client suffering significant damages, having regard to inter alia the following:

4.1 The defamatory publication contains allegations and innuendo that our client dubbed or compelled the Public Investment Corporation (“PIC”) into an unsound investment with particular reference to the PIC’s decision to invest in Independent Media (Pty) Ltd (“Independent”). A reader is led to believe that our client “siphoned off” the PIC’s funds, which ordinarily bears the meaning of dishonestly taking money from an organisation and using it for a purpose for which it was not intended. These allegations and innuendo suggest to a reader that our client acted dishonestly in his dealings with the PIC and that the PIC’s decision to invest in Independent is devoid of any legitimate business rationale. It is evident in these passages that the writer has no knowledge of the history of our client’s business relationship with the PIC. The writer’s reckless assertions contained in the untrue and defamatory statements not only serves to disturb the sanctity of our client’s business relationship with the PIC, but also serves to cause severe harm to our client’s reputation. Ultimately, readers are left with the impression that our client is a dishonest businessman. These defamatory statements serve to undermine our client’s credibility.

4.2 The defamatory publication contains further allegations and innuendo which will leave a reader with the impression that our client is dishonest. It is suggested to a reader that our client has been dishonest in stating that he has served as Nelson Mandela’s medical doctor. A reader is furthermore led to question whether our client is indeed qualified as a medical doctor. Such impressions, as a direct result of the allegations and innuendo contained in the defamatory publication, undermine our client’s credibility and causes severe damage to our client’s reputation. The writer has indeed acted recklessly in publishing defamatory statements pertaining to our client’s qualifications as a simple fact check would have prevented this untrue statement and the resultant damage caused to our client’s reputation.

4.3 The defamatory publication contains further innuendo that our client, as Chairman of Independent, has personally orchestrated a restructuring of Independent and the sale of assets, to the detriment of other stakeholders of Independent and for our client’s own personal gain. It is suggested to a reader that our client is using money belonging to pensioners for his own financial gain. The reader is led to believe that the decisions which are taken within Independent are firstly, solely our client’s decision, and secondly, devoid of any legitimate business rationale. These statements will leave an impression in the mind of a reader that our client is an unscrupulous businessman, who is acting recklessly with money belonging to pensioners, and who will not act in the best interest of a company within which he operates. Our client’s credibility, and thereby reputation, has suffered severe impairment as a result. Our client is a businessman of international rapport, and any such impression or question regarding credibility causes significant impairment and harm to our client’s reputation.

5. The continued availability of the defamatory publication on public platforms will serve to further impair and damage our client’s reputation and should be removed immediately. Failure so to act will aggravate the harm cause to our client.

6. In the circumstances, we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, the immediate removal and retraction of the defamatory publication, the publication of an unconditional, prominent and appropriate public apology (in terms agreed to by our client), which should be published in Biznews and Cape Messenger within 3 business days from the date of this letter.

7. We are furthermore instructed to demand that Ms Cameron, Cape Messenger and Biznews cease and desist its continuous publications of defamatory articles pertaining to our client.

8. In the event of our clients’ demand not being met adequately, timeously or at all, our client will pursue legal recourse to the full extent permitted by law, including the institution of High Court proceedings for a claim for damages, which will be substantial.

9. All of our client’s rights are expressly reserved.

Yours faithfully

Webber Wentzel

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