Dr Dennis George is the executive chairperson of African Quartz. Photo: File
Dr Dennis George is the executive chairperson of African Quartz. Photo: File

Thuma Mina Group must be held accountable for its media bot strategy

By Opinion Time of article published May 27, 2021

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By Dennis George

THE INVESTMENT of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) in the Independent Media Consortium was discussed during the meeting of Parliament’s standing committee on finance that was attended by Deputy Minister of Finance David Masondo, PIC chief executive Abel Sithole, Sekunjalo chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé and AYO Technology Solutions chairperson Dr Wallace Mgoqi.

Since the meeting, a social media actor, @goolamammy, has accused Survé, who is the executive chairperson of Independent Media, of the following:

“Breaking: After looting R4 billion from PIC, it has been confirmed that Sactwu (Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union) is taking legal action against the controversial business Iqbal Survé to recover R150 million it loaned to him in 2012. They want the money repaid with interest.

“Basically, the disgraceful businessman stole the money of honest hard-working black worker. Sactwu is not WMC (White Monopoly Capital ), it’s the money of everyday hard and honest black workers. Shame on Iqbal Survé. #PICLooterIqbalSurve”

Highlighting Sactwu Investments’ investment in the Independent Media Consortium, the broad-based consortium of union companies, black economic empowerment groupings, women groupings, NGOs etc to acquire Independent Media was a deliberate attack orchestrated by a number of social media accounts, led by Goolam V.

Goolam V has been shown to be part of a co-ordinated social media bot strategy to discredit Sekunjalo, and is linked to the Thuma Mina media group. In order to deflect from the factual presentation in Parliament by Independent Media, Sekunjalo and AYO, Goolam V launched a defamatory attack on Survé and Sekunjalo using the Sactwu investment in the Independent Media Consortium as a pretext for this deflection.

The real intention of this could be seen when an appeal was made at the same time to shut down Sekunjalo Group companies’ bank accounts, even those with Standard Bank.

Goolam V claimed that Sekunjalo and Independent Media had taken Sactwu’s money for themselves and that Sactwu had not benefited from its investment in the Independent Media Consortium. This is blatantly false, as the Sactwu investment into the consortium was actually used to repay the PIC R150m.

Several workers and trade unions asked me to research and demystify the investment that Sactwu made, and the general terms that motivated the trade union investment company to partner with Independent Media.

The trade unions and workers who approached me for assistance argued that they trusted me, and I have been instrumental in solving complex financial transactions, such as when the trade union sued Investec for R4 billion and when business at Nedlac refused to discuss the workers’ demands for an additional public holiday when Good Friday and Human Rights Day fell on the same day.

In the Investec dispute, the trade unions had already run up a legal court bill of R20m, while the bank was not prepared to reach an out-of-court settlement to return these funds to pension funds. As the then general secretary of Federation of Unions of South Africa, I managed to force Investec to settle with the trade unions. I am bound by the settlement agreement with Investec not to disclose the amount.

After the public holidays were published in the Government Gazette, former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe wrote to me to thank me for bringing the workers’ concerns directly to them.

In 2013, Sactwu, through Sactwu Investments, advanced R150m to the Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) Consortium. For this investment, Sactwu Investments received an additional 8 percent equity stake in the SIM Consortium for free.

The purpose of this agreement was to establish a long-term partnership to promote Sactwu and its members, and to strengthen the voice of all workers, through a monthly supplement called “The World of Work”, which was produced by Independent Media.

More than R100m was invested in printing, distribution and editorial costs over two years. In addition to supporting Sactwu and its members, an annual fashion show was launched to showcase clothing items from local companies, in partnership with the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Massive media coverage was generated to support local economic development in the form of clothing manufacturing and the creation of decent jobs. “The World of Work” ensured that various trade union leaders and Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel would provide their perspectives on developments in the labour market and the economy that affected workers, specifically the fact that the share of labour compensation in national income had declined in South Africa. Recently, the government as an employer decided unilaterally not to honour the wage agreement with public sector trade unions.

Another concern for workers and trade unions was the weakening of workers’ bargaining power, technological change, globalisation, financial markets and banks, product and labour market institutions, and unemployment. Without a voice, workers and trade unions cannot articulate and amplify their vision and solutions to combat poverty, unemployment and inequality in the main media, which is biased towards big business, globalisation and market forces.

When Sactwu Investments decided to exit the SIM Consortium agreement, the parties agreed to enter a swop agreement with Sagarmatha, whereby they received shares in Sagarmatha in return for their investment in SIM. In addition, Sactwu Investments also received share options in AYO, together with other trade unions and black organisations, that were published in the JSE pre-listing statements.

The courts are not the appropriate institutions to settle disputes of this nature, and it would be wise to use alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation and conciliation, because attorneys and advocates like complex cases such as these, because legal fees can escalate to millions of rands without achieving a favourable outcome.

In conclusion, I would recommend that Survé take legal action against @goolamammy for defamation of character for the damage that has been caused to his dignity and integrity.

Dr Dennis George is the executive chairperson of African Quartz. He writes in his personal capacity.

*The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites

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