Cape Town - Former members of the press council working with a minister and two former ministers are alleged to be the hands behind a recent move by the SA National Editors Forum (SANEF) in attempting to force the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to execute a hostile takeover of Independent Media.
The Independent Media Investigations Unit can reveal that the current minister and former ministers did not involve just the PIC, but are also working with two banks in a last-ditch effort to shut down the accounts of the Sekunjalo Group, a shareholder of Independent Media – a move expected to render Independent Media unable to trade or operate.
The plan was to use the African News Agency (ANA) – State Security Agency (SSA) matter as a pretext for the banks to shut down the accounts of Sekunjalo on the back of reputational exposure.
In its letter, SANEF asked the PIC to ring-fence the newsrooms of the Independent Media titles by introducing a “Chinese wall” between management and the editors of the titles.
Sources within this grouping – which revolves around several SANEF officials, senior former journalists and members of the Thuma Mina WhatsApp group – said desperation and panic had set in as a result of perceived loss of support in the ANC for President Cyril Ramaphosa.
However, SANEF spokesperson Hopewell Hadebe denied claims that the letter sent to the PIC was a move to lobby the asset manager to execute a hostile takeover of Independent Media.
“We just want Independent Media to return to the Press Council structure. We hope that the PIC will consider our plea to convince Sekunjalo, as the major shareholder, to return the media house to the Press Council structure in order to give it some form of protection from other formations,” he said.
Hadebe also denied claims that the NGO's move was influenced or motivated by any political structures.
“We are hoping that the PIC will hear us out, and if not we will go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Sources said the grouping was astounded by the strength of the anti-Ramaphosa camp in the ANC and fear that, should a special conference be called, Ramaphosa could be recalled as the president of the ANC – reminiscent of what happened to former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
Social media is abuzz with a list of a possible top six from different camps within the ANC, all of which exclude Ramaphosa and his supporters.
The recent editorial changes at Independent Media have been viewed as problematic for Ramaphosa, as the editors in the newspaper group had exposed the CR17 campaign funding and the PPE corruption, while other media sympathetic to Ramaphosa ignored it for almost two weeks.
There were also individuals apparently working to influence the state capture commission's narrative against Independent Media by deliberately singling out ANA as a recipient of funding from the SSA.
The group's plan was to immediately use journalists in the Thuma Mina group – especially from rival publications – who together, within the space of one week, published nine articles in a synchronised manner on ANA and the SSA.
Soon after revelations at the state capture commission, SANEF released a statement – without seeking Independent Media's side of the story – falsely claiming that ANA was part of Independent Media, before condemning Independent Media and its journalists.
Editors belonging to the group slammed SANEF.
According to sources within SANEF there was deep division within the organisation of journalists when its executive wrote to the PIC, ostensibly to protect journalism. In the letter to the PIC, Sanef was setting the ground for the PIC to intervene in Independent Media.
Independent Media's executive chairman Iqbal Survé and editors separately wrote a scathing response condemning the interference as SANEF had no locus standi in the matter.
Independent Media Investigations Unit