South Africa - Pretoria - 03 April 2019. The chairman of the Sekunjalo Group Dr Iqbal at the PIC Commission of Inquiry. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA – Chairman of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, Dr Iqbal Survé said he was approached in 2016 by Tiso Blackstar chief executive, Andrew Bonamour, to merge Independent Media with Tiso Blackstar, restructure the group and retrench a significant portion of the workforce.

Survé was testifying at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Commission of Inquiry into impropriety at the institution, led by retired Judge Lex Mpati and assisted by Emmanuel Lediga and former reserve bank governor Gill Marcus.  

According to Survé, while attending a digital conference at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, in 2016, he was approached by a TSB representative who invited him to meet with Andrew Bonamour, the chief executive of Tiso Blackstar. This was at the height of the so-called ‘media wars.’

According to Survé, he then met with Bonamour who discussed with him a possible merger between Tiso Blackstar and Independent.

“When we had a discussion with Mr Bonamour, he said we should merge entities and retrench half of the people, get profitability and combine the media assets.  I don't think a war situation between media houses is good for anyone, but I had to think about the thousands of employees working for those companies,” said Survé.

He explained that there was a fundamental difference between the two companies – one was predominantly white, while Independent Media had more black people in the group, particularly black women in senior positions.

Explaining the media landscape, Survé said it was important that he kept the balance to ensure that people remained employed in a very difficult media environment.

“With circulation falling, all of the media houses in SA have been through this. I am working on a strategy with my team. We are involved in projects where we championed the dignity for women, the homeless and stop racism campaign. I have taken my own money to invest on a month to month basis,” he said.

He said he had approached the PIC and the Chinese to engage on the recapitalisation of Independent Media.

“The PIC refused to engage. If you put in a certain amount of money, we need to take the risk. I can’t retrench people. I can’t do that because those are job losses and people will struggle to feed their families. I am not tough enough to do that. I can’t have those discussions until the PIC sits with me,” he said.