Ferial Haffajee, all Iqbal Survé did was stop white privilege
Opinion / 22 November 2019, 06:07am / AYANDA MDLULI
Independent Media has become a whipping post for some journalists - former employees who left under circumstances that would not look good on any CV, competitors posturing through the poison pens of their journalists and some, dare we say it, harbouring a more sinister motive. Their egregious claims and wilful snipes have ranged from blatant mistruths to selective amnesia.
In this five-part series, senior journalist Ayanda Mdluli unpacks the lies, fake news, curious claims and motives of writers Ferial Haffajee, Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya, Alide Dasnois, Chris Whitfield and Dougie Oakes. Here is the truth about those who refuse to accept the transformation of the South African media.
Former City Press editor Ferial Haffajee, who appears to have made it her full-time job to attack and smear Independent Media (Indy), has painted a false picture that former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois was hounded out of her job as soon as Dr Iqbal Survé bought the company in 2013.
In a piece published on Fin24, the country’s self-styled media torch-bearer and guardian of journalistic ethics chose to parrot a well-known lie that Dasnois and other white journalists were fired by Survé.
Even though Dasnois, under whose editorship Cape Times had no black African newsroom managers, parted ways with the company over her opposition to its new editorial philosophy and transformative agenda - Haffajee deliberately showered her with praise.
The fact that Cape Times under Dasnois was once accused of being generally racist and in Helen Zille’s pocket, counted for less. For Haffajee, Dasnois is a saint who can do no wrong.
Haffajee claimed that white journalists were forced out, either by Survé or then chief executive officer Tony Howard. This is also far from the truth.
What is true, though, is that the new owners set in place policies which removed seemingly racist privileges many employees had been allowed under the previous Irish owners.
These privileges included higher salaries, extended leave, rapid promotion, higher pensions and other benefits, and even the right to work from home.
Sadly, they were all afforded mainly to white journalists. Very few, if any, black journalists were accorded the same. It was not a question of experience or workflow output either, since at the time there were a number of outstanding black editors and executives (there are even more now).
Compounding this divide, I understand, was what was apparently two separate payrolls, with bonuses being paid out on a largely racial basis.
Given these circumstances, one can then make a fairly reasonable deduction that Survé, who has always spoken about a unified South Africa, would want to level the playing fields.
Survé simply instituted a policy which removed benefits based on race, and on the buddy network system, and created a workplace which was non-racial and merit-based. Bringing about equality does not amount to hounding anyone out of their jobs by all accounts.
If that is Haffajee and Dasnois’ interpretation, Franklin Leonard may have had them in mind when he said, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
According to senior managers at Indy it was Chris Whitfield, former Independent Media Western Cape regional editor-in-chief, who instigated the removal of Dasnois from the Cape Times.
It’s also common knowledge that Dasnois refused to take up the position of the Labour Bulletin editor offered to her by Howard, stating that she refused to work under Sekunjalo and Survé.
So it was Dasnois’ own colleagues who put the final nail in her coffin, not Survé. Therefore, the myth that Dasnois was fired is just that.