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JOHANNESBURG — Veteran journalist Ed Herbst, in this article below, unpacks what he thinks is the strategy of the governing ANC when it comes to attempting to control communications around the elections next year. Herbst points to recent developments regarding the SABC board as well as a controversy that’s been brewing over the alleged write-off of a PIC loan to Sekunjalo. Take a read… – Gareth van Zyl
By Ed Herbst*
The GEPF also wrote off about R1bn of loans and investments in companies controlled by Iqbal Surve, the owner of Independent Media, the publisher of The Star newspaper. The annual report also revealed that the pension fund had written off a total of R1.06bn in loans and investments in Surve’s company Sekunjalo and in Independent News and Media SA due to their failure to honour their payment obligations. – Linda Ensor Business Day 3/12/2018
At least two board members of the embattled South African Broadcasting Corporation are understood to have resigned amid allegations of political pressure being brought to bear on the board. – Kyle Cowan News 24 4/12/2018
With an election little more than four months away – three if you discount December when the country decamps for the festive season somnambulism – the African National Congress is panicking.
It desperately needs to retain the pro-ANC bias of the state broadcaster news personnel who the SABC 8 called ‘The Enforcers’.
We are indebted to Marianne Thamm for her Daily Maverick reporting on the SIU investigation of the SABC. The scale and audacity of the state broadcaster looting leaves one astonished.
Nothing changes at the SABC. In 2010, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan urged government departments and SOEs not to splurge on Soccer World Cup tickets. There was unbridled mirth with the SABC buying tickets worth R3.3m. Fast forward to 2018 and even though there is no money at the SABC to pay programme producers and the buildings are literally falling part, R14m is blown on a self-congratulatory bunfight while the incompetence beggars belief. That’s how the ANC rolls.
With bankruptcy looming at the SABC and the ANC indifferent to the plea of the interim board for a R3bn bailout, large-scale retrenchments are mooted.
In a previous article on this website, I suggested that the Enforcers should be the first to go as an act of redemption for the death of Suna Venter. This is never going to happen.
Black ops initiative
With the exposure during the last election of the ANC’s R50m Black Ops initiative to subvert the democratic process, its options are limited and so, to regain its iron-fisted control, the ANC plans to collapse the current interim SABC board – and replace it with subservient lackeys as happened at Eskom and SAA and with previous SABC boards.
The newly-deployed cadres will ensure that the Enforcers can continue with their pro-ANC propaganda and their bias against opposition parties like the Democratic Alliance.
In this regard it is clearly succeeding as the current resignations from the SABC board indicate. Same old, same old.
On the newspaper front, the ANC’s position is far more sanguine and I can’t see it making any effort to recoup the 2013 R1bn PIC loan to Iqbal Survé through which it gained control of the largest group of English newspapers in the country.
Now, to nobody’s surprise, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has simply written off that debt and this was a predictable outcome.
- In May 2013 Anton Harber presciently wrote about the initially-clandestine loan: ‘There is also no clarity on how the R2bn purchase is being funded, since this amount appears to be beyond the scope of his existing companies and assets.’
- A year later Dirk de Vos correctly predicted the current PIC debt write-off: ‘Put another way, the GEPF will bear most of the losses if this investment does not work out’.
- A year after that an investigation by James Myburgh of Politicsweb revealed that Survé was making no effort to repay the loan and that the interest was mounting.
The African National Congress clearly does not give a rat’s rectum about the GEPF pensioners and one can understand why.
It is desperate to regain control of the Western Cape and the Cape Town municipality so that it can return people like Ebrahim (Brown Envelope) Rasool, Nomaindia Mfeketo and the unspeakable Lynne Brown to power and relive those halcyon days between 2003 and 2006 when it looted more than R2bn through scams like Big Bay 1 &2 and Thubelisha Homes and Jewellery City.
Constant fake news attacks
In this regard, the two Iqbal Survé-owned newspapers produced in Newspaper House in Cape Town’s CBD – the Cape Times and the Cape Argus – are fulfilling their pro-ANC mandate with constant fake new attacks on the DA-controlled Cape Town municipality and provincial legislature.
As an example: On 12 November, the newly-elected mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato, announced his mayoral committee and the issued photograph which you can see here, showed that four of the 11 people in the picture are white. All of the white people in the photographs have decades of experience in municipal governance and have earned their appointment on merit.
These are, nevertheless, the opening sentences in the article by Jason Felix and Marvin Charles:
Cape Town – Mayor Dan Plato’s announcement of his new mayoral committee has raised the ire of opposition parties who have accused the DA of blocking transformation in the City. ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said: “This entrenches white privilege and it confirms the long-held view of what all the councillors in the City have been saying that there is a white cabal.”
Quite clearly there is no justification for the accusation by the ANC that the Democratic Alliance is anti-transformation, but this sort of pro-ANC fake news has become the norm from Newspaper House and the ANC knew that its manifestly incorrect statement would be turned into a venomous front-page lead in the Cape Argus.
When the draft Bill went out for public comment, the ANC, working with “Independent” Newspapers, put the outrage generating machine into over-drive, with headlines such as “Education Bill will see Schools ‘become Shebeens’.” We have explained the facts (patiently and often) to reporters of Independent Newspapers, to no avail. They are determined, in Survé’s own words, to manipulate the news “in the Goebbels tradition of propaganda”.
Another example. On 30 July the Cape Argus featured a front page lead by Jason Felix accusing the Cape Town municipality of mismanaging its water and sanitation finances to the extent that it had “under spent by a whopping R1.6bn on its capital budget”.
The article was devoid of truth.
We are indebted to Dougie Oakes, the former Cape Times political reporter and op-ed writer who has given us an insight into what it is like to work for Sekunjalo Independent Media and Iqbal Survé and what it is like to work for a news company where ethical journalism is an alien concept.
His article is headlined It is time to go Iqbal Survé and here is a relevant extract:
I’ve worked in newspapers and book editing for more than 40 years – and I’ve never come across worse chaos than at Independent Media’.
Independent Media is a company that is devoid of leadership. It is a company where the owner, backed by a group of lackeys, does pretty much as he pleases.
It is a company where far too many people have been bullied. It is a company where the bullied have no recourse to natural justice.
And yes, it is a company that has made itself guilty of racist behaviour.
Furthermore, Oakes writes: I’ve never come across a group where lies have been peddled with such glib assurance.
What is also significant is that Oakes points out why Iqbal Survé’s newspapers played no role in the most significant news story of the Zuptoid era:
When the Gupta Tapes story broke, Independent Media was left high and dry – out of the loop. We were told we had been ignored because it was felt we “could not be trusted”
What is telling is that there has been no response from Iqbal Survé to the news of the PIC debt write-off and no denial of the accusations by Oakes from Adri Senekal de Wet, his saccharine imbongi.
In a follow-up article, van Rensburg reveals how the R4.3bn PIC loan to Ayo Technologies is being used.
Here is a relevant extract:
Ayo Technology Solutions banked about R227m in interest by the end of August from the controversial R4.3bn investment it got from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) late last year.
Now it is paying out R100m in dividends, despite virtually all its profits stemming simply from the interest earned on the PIC money.
Its profits shot up 390% from R40m to R196m for the financial year to the end of August.
However, this was due to “investment revenue” of R227m in the financial year.
This appears to simply be eight months’ worth of interest on the PIC money sitting in the bank.
If the interest earned on the PIC money up to the end of August is annualised, it comes to an interest rate of 8%.
That is equivalent to the interest anyone would earn on a short-term fixed deposit in a savings account.
Without the interest from the PIC cash, Ayo’s underlying financial results are actually pretty dismal.
Commission of inquiry
I have little doubt that the confidante and business associate of the late Brett Kebble will be at pains to tell all when the Lex Mpati commission of inquiry starts its hearings next year and he will reveal how he made INMSA one of the most profitable and revered newspaper companies in the world. (Satire)
This is going to be fascinating because according to Sam Sole, SIM (Sekunjalo Independent Media) ‘suffered significant losses every year of operation since Survé took over’.
In fact, says Sole: ‘The interim financial information disclosed by SIM reveals that, as of 30 June 2017, SIM had accumulated losses of R752m and that the company’s total liabilities exceed its assets by R547m.’
What happens now?
Is Iqbal Survé going to be allowed by the PIC to get away with what some might perceive to be a pre-ordained scam?
Why has there been no response from Survé or the editor of Business Report, Adri Senekal de Wet – who has constantly sought to praise and protect the PIC and the recently-dismissed CEO, Dr Dan Matjila – to the news of the debt write-off? Just as there has been no response to the Dougie Oakes article about what it is like working at Newspaper House with Aneez Salie as editor.
Whatever happens, the ANC’s 2019 election communications strategy – retain the Enforcers at the SABC and watch with satisfaction how the fake news campaign against the DA in Cape Town by Iqbal Survé’s newspapers progresses – is working well for them.
They have proved once again that no matter how low the National Party stooped, they can stoop lower. The Nats used public money – an SADF slush fund – to found one newspaper, The Citizen.
The ANC has used the supposedly sacrosanct GEPF pension fund to gain control of 19 newspapers and IOL, the second most influential online news portal. Anything the Nats could do, the ANC can do better.
At the time of writing, two days after Business Day broke the news of the PIC debt write-off, this news is still being withheld from the readers of Iqbal Survé’s newspapers and his IOL website.
This should come as no surprise – censorship by omission is the stock in trade of the propagandist.
All this while staff flee the Survé taint in increasing numbers.
- Ed Herbst is a veteran journalist based in Cape Town
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