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CAPE TOWN - Tiso Blackstar, the owner of Business Day, Sunday Times and Financial Mail, is waging a dirty tricks smear campaign to discredit the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and its chief executive Dr Daniel Matjila.

More than 30 articles have been published in the above-mentioned publications over the past few weeks to discredit in an attempt to remove Matjila from his position.

Over the weeks we have tried to find reasons for this campaign against Matjila.

Andrew Bonamour, CEO of Tiso Blackstar (Sunday Times, Business Day, Financial Mail, The Sowetan and BDLive) Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi


We asked Tiso Blakcstar’s chief executive, Andrew Bonamour, the following questions:

Do you agree that Tiso Blackstar orchestrated a smear campaign against the PIC chief executive Dr Matjila via Business Day, Sunday Times and Financial Mail?

Is Tiso in serious financial trouble?

Is Tiso trying to buy the assets of Independent Media?

Bonamour’s rude response to my colleague, Joseph Booysen, was: “Joseph, go and look at our financial results before asking stupid questions. They are public. And why don’t you contact the journalists concerned?”

Bonamour followed up by his “official response”, saying: “My official reply is simple. Simple answers. No, no, and no.”

Sources tell us that Bonamour wants to remove Matjila and influence the PIC board to acquire some of the media assets of Independent Media to ensure Tiso’s survival.

“The Tiso share price tanked over time, the media profits are wiped out and Tiso is desperately trying to acquire Independent titles to rationalise and consolidate in the print media industry to allow for greater margins and national reach.

“Bonamour has a commercial and political agenda”, the source said.

It is strange that Bonamour denies that he is desperate to merge Tiso and Independent.

The Public Investment Corporation's chief executive, Dr Daniel Matjila. File picture: Dean Hutton

On April 13 a Business Day senior editor wrote an opinion piece and ended with these words: “The PIC needs to start thinking about forcing a merger, otherwise a whole bunch of SA’s long-loved newspapers are going to disappear pretty soon.”

This clearly indicated Tiso’s intent.

What has followed since then has been a smear campaign against Matjila, who clearly is against such a merger, since it relates to media capture, we were told in confidence.

“It is media capture when the media attempts to influence the appointment or removal of the chief executive of a state institution. Is this not what the Guptas tried to do at other state-owned enterprises?” he asked.

The recent reports by the Tiso Blackstar-owned publication, Business Day, about the PIC, are similar to another set of discredited stories by the Sunday Times, another Tiso Black Star-owned publication. Sunday Times credibility took a hit over a series of stories it ran in 2014 on the SA Revenue Service, which was based on a KPMG report. Those reports have proven to be false.

Sunday Times was told to retract all its “inaccurate, misleading and unfair” stories about its Sars “rogue unit saga” and to publicly apologise in writing to former SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Pravin Gordhan and the others implicated.

Similarly to the Sars reporting, the stories on the the PIC seem to be following the same trend.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana released a statement this week that accused Tiso Blackstar of lying in respect to its repatriation of funds.

“The media release published in the Sunday Times served to mislead the public, and the department will be pursuing recourse to ensure adherence to responsible and accountable reporting,” he said.

It is clear that Tiso Blackstar Group are now being used to drive political agendas.

An asset manager has also questioned the reason behind Tiso Blackstar’s attempts to stop the listing of Sagarmatha Technologies on the JSE earlier this year.

“Independent would have formed part of a larger ecosystem of tech media platform investments. This was not what Tiso needed, since it is clear they are targeting Independent Media’s assets”.

The truth is that Matjila stands in the way of this monopolistic attempts by Tiso to acquire the assets of Independent.

“If Matjila is out of the way, Tiso believes it will be able to force the PIC to consider this merger”, our sources tell us.

When asked to comment, Independent Media chairperson, Dr Iqbal Survé, said: “I don’t comment on collusive, monopolistic and anti-transformation agendas. The country needs competition and a diversity of voices that speak to the overall population”.

He stated: “Tiso tried unsuccessfully to launch the Times Daily and lost more than a R1billion, resulting in a catastrophic decline in the share price.

Independent has editorially positioned itself well and have a broad and transformed readership in South Africa and Africa; Tiso is attempting to steal this hard-won readership and market by using suspicious means to undermine the chief executive and the board of the PIC”.

An investigation should be launched into the conduct of Tiso trying to capture these institutions. Survé said it was ironic that Matjila fought the Guptas when they tried to acquire Independent, using the same corporate blackmail tactics.

Matjila stood firm and paid the prize of opposing the Guptas. Now he was being targeted by another camp to achieve similar objectives.

The question is: Does Bonamour influence the editors of Tiso Blackstar for his own commercial and political interests?

Sources revealed that Bonamour requested various meetings with Matjila to convince him to merge Tiso and Independent in recent times.

Adri Senekal de Wet is the executive editor of Business Report. 

-BUSINESS REPORT