Pretoria - Major allegations had been raised about businessman Dr Iqbal Survé tampering with the editorial operations of his media company and the impact of this on the PIC investment, Emmanuel Lediga, an assistant to the commissioner Justice Lex Mpati, told the Mpati Commission of Inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the PIC in Pretoria.
Survé, who is Executive Chairman of Sekunjalo Group and a shareholder in companies including AEEI (African Equity Empowerment Investments), AYO Technology Solutions and Independent Media, is testifying before the PIC Inquiry.
“I can only speak to the facts. The facts are I can give you copies of letters I have written to all the editors in terms of how and what we do. The principles are to be accurate, tell both sides of the story, don’t take sides and be truthful. That is in writing and in contracts.
“Especially during election time I go to great lengths to do this. It is precisely because I don’t take sides, especially in ANC factional battles that I have come under attack. People want me to take sides, they want Independent Media to take sides and I make the point repeatedly to tell them that I don’t do the news.
“The day we no longer have objectivity, the business is gone. I emphasised to my colleagues that we should not be tempted into factional battles. Let the Sunday Times, Daily Maverick and Business Day do that if they want. I said to my colleagues you must remain true to the facts. It is not a policy that has made me popular.”
Survé said the media group's circulation, which was not dropping as much as rival media houses, was as a result of the public not buying into the idea that news coverage was biased.
“Independent Media is the most objective media house in the country,” Survé said. “That comes at a price. As one minister said to me at a function ‘we are very disappointed with you because you don’t take sides’.
“My response was that in the interests of democracy we cannot take sides.
“Another minister called me three months ago and threatened me at 10 pm in the evening. He said your journalists have called me about bank statements and things and those journalists are doing the bidding of certain people.
“I told him I can put him in touch with editors but we have to remain objective,” Survé said.
Asked about his statement which referred to "political interference", Survé said that he had learned that the chairperson of the PIC, Mondli Gungubele, had said he would "crush Independent Media, crush AYO and he would crush Sekunjalo".
“He would not allow any decision at the PIC to favour Sekunjalo and he would use taxpayers' money to come after us.
“That’s what he said to (ANC) NEC members. He has not only made those statements there but at numerous other events. I can only assume that when we put a commercial prospect to the PIC and we are told this then we can only assume that this is why the decision has been reached.
“If I look at the conduct and the statements being made, I am saddened by this.”
In his wide-ranging testimony which started on Monday. Survé has touched on the country’s black economic empowerment (BEE) model; the PIC’s R4.3 billion investment in AYO; the scuppered listing of Multi-Sided Platform company Sagarmatha Technologies; as well as the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013.