Markus Jooste, former chief executive of Steinhoff Africa, with his contacts, has achieved success on the social ladder.Photo: Supplied
CAPE TOWN - JP Landman, a political and economic analyst, says that if you have good contacts, you have a greater chance of achieving success in South Africa. Landman refers to this as social capital. James-Brent Styan, by now the well-known author of the Steinhoff book, explains that social capital is just the relationship, the trust or simply the people who talk to each other.

It is therefore important to build your network, Landman says.

For decades the Wieses, Moutons, Ruperts, Bekkers and Joostes did exactly that. They served on each other’s boards, they invested in each other’s companies, they grew (and still grow) wealth and built their global portfolios, they listed locally and abroad, moved their companies around and used (or still use) all sorts of corporate tricks to pay less, if any, tax.

More interesting is that they had the support of the mighty Naspers. They owned the media - their company results and corporate pictures were published on front pages of the Afrikaner-owned newspapers.

This is a dangerous and powerful force. I’ve seen how the power of “owning the media” made people rich. Very rich. I’ve also experienced how the very same powerful media house(s) used (almost abused) this “power” to discredit those that dare to fly in their sky.

This is not only a local phenomenon, it happens all around the globe.

At the end of the day, newspapers signal messages to the most vulnerable: the people that belief that the words printed in newspapers are true. Readers trust the printed word, now more than ever; social media allows every person to express their views, tweeting became part of every chief executive, politician and journalist’s KPIs. Donald Trump is but one example. He won an election using social media as a platform, promising Americans a better US.

Since I was appointed as editor of Business Report (BR) almost two years ago, I published various articles and editorial columns. I was fearless, excited and honoured to be trusted with such an important mission. BR is South Africa’s biggest daily financial publication - we “speak” to more than two million readers per day via the various Independent Media platforms. Powerful, but dangerous.

I was discredited and portrayed as Iqbal Survé’s this and that. At some point, I asked my chairperson: Doc, what lies beneath this onslaught on you? He simply asked me to ignore the onslaughts by Tiso Blackstar and bring out the best BR, to focus on articles that will empower those previously deprived of an opportunity to start a business and to create wealth.

But a sort of a media war broke out the moment Independent announced that we will be listing Sagarmatha, and Independent Media will be listed on the JSE. Why, I have to ask. All of a sudden, each and every company that Survé started was discredited.

Many, very many, articles appeared in Business Day, Business Times, Biznews, AmaBhungane, Daily Maverick and others, writing the same crap day after day. I fought back, because I knew that all they want is to take over Independent. They went so far as to discredit the one person that fought against the Guptas, Dr Daniel Matjila.

Media pie

As you know, the PIC invested in Independent and for the first time in the history of South Africa, black people also owned a piece of the media pie. Ouch.

The vultures didn’t like this. Who is this new player in the mighty media sky? Reality is that this humble South African grew up poor. He sold newspapers on street corners and saved to pay for his education, and qualified as a medical doctor. Christo Wiese also grew up poor, Markus Jooste also - apparently his father worked at the Post Office and enjoyed playing the horses “the office where he worked was close to the Tattersalls, a place where people bet on horses”, he said in an interview.

Now, Jooste aligned himself with Christo Wiese, Whitey Basson and Jannie Mouton. James-Brent Styan wrote: “Jooste does it seagull style: he earned this name not by virtue of his free-flying nature, but rather as a result of his uncompromising executive style. Jooste was the seagull, because he would fly in, shit all over his executives and then fly out.”

Where am I going with this, I asked myself while writing another editor’s column, opening myself up for more criticism? Reality is, there is a new bird in the media sky, and the vultures don’t like it, at all. Why? What really lies beneath the constant attacks on people like Dr Iqbal Survé? A man that serves on global boards, a respected global businessman, a leader and a fighter for the rights of the poor?

Facts are that the Joostes, Wieses, Bassons and Moutons built their wealth and family trusts over many years. 

People of South Africa trusted them, rightly so. I mean, they were profiled on the platforms of their friends in the media. And then, one day, another bird appeared in the sky: announcing that he bought Independent Media from the Irish. It was - and remains - a game changer.

-BUSINESS REPORT