Cape Town - Daily Maverick allegedly orchestrated and financially sponsored a smear campaign against prominent politicians, businessmen and executives, says a former contributor.
In a series of shocking revelations on Twitter, Unisa International Relations student Modibe Modiba claimed the online news portal paid him and other students weekly stipends to write and tweet negative stories about various targets viewed as proponents of transformation.
This included some senior EFF and ANC leaders, businessman Dr Iqbal Survé and former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) chief executive Dr Dan Matjila.
In recent years, Daily Maverick has published a series of negative articles on EFF president Julius Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu, Survé and Matjila.
Modiba said the publication also asked him twice to write about Survé and conduct a research project and included his name.
In a telephonic interview with Independent Media on Wednesday, Modiba accused the Daily Maverick of “propaganda” and "paid narrative".
He said it paid him and other students R500 weekly stipends each for the job.
The students were recruited from various Gauteng universities, especially Wits University, he said.
Modiba said Daily Maverick paid him cash through its drivers, who met him at a garage on William Nicol Drive in Johannesburg.
“They were very smart about it. They would tell me to meet someone at the mall or that we should meet at the Shell garage by William Nicol. They would send drivers in Toyota Corollas to come and give me the R500 every week. They told me it’s for data. They never deposited the money into our bank accounts because it would leave a paper trail,” said Modiba.
“They asked me twice to write about Dr Survé and especially about the EFF. They also asked me about the PIC Commission and they asked me to do research and to mention Dr Survé and Dr Dan Matjila.”
On Wednesday morning, Modiba took to Twitter to express his concerns about Daily Maverick’s “propaganda” and “paid narrative”.
He also used the opportunity to explain why he stopped writing for the publication.
“People keep asking me if I've stopped writing and that they no longer see my articles on Daily Maverick (especially) & other publications. My reason is that for eg I'd be called to write a negative article abt @IqbalSurve and bo Dan Matjila but when i ask for proof they never,” he said in one of the tweets.
%%%twitter https://twitter.com/IqbalSurve?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@IqbalSurveand bo Dan Matjila but when i ask for proof they never pic.twitter.com/Zbpp27EmCv
— Modibe Modiba (@mmodiba10)
He added in another tweet: “I took a decision to stop writing & sending my articles to the Daily Maverick. They only publish articles where you criticize black leaders/ANC or EFF. Once you start writing abt anything which is seen as “anti white” they have a problem.”
Daily Maverick editor-in-chief Branko Brkic confirmed that they published Modiba’s articles but denied paying him and other students to smear Survé, Matjila and some targeted politicians.
“We have published a few columns of Mr Modiba,and have no idea what he’s basing his claims on. I would appreciate [it] if he, or you, could provide any shred of evidence for these insane claims. As there are none, it is irresponsible and unethical journalism to publish uncorroborated claims like these,” Brkic said.
EFF national spokesperson Vuyani Phambo promised to comment later.
In a series of articles, Daily Maverick reporters have accused Malema and Shivambu of tender fraud and corruption.
They claimed the duo benefited from VBS bank looting and used their powerful positions to score tenders in the Johannesburg and Tshwane metros, where the EFF was until recently part of coalition governments.
Survé was accused of inflating the value of the share price of one of his companies, AYO Technology Solutions, in which the PIC under Matjila bought shares worth R4.3 billion in 2017. The Sekunjalo chairman was also alleged to have used PIC funds to buy properties.
The Daily Maverick articles further accused Matjila of irregularly approving funding deals for his “friend” Survé, and using his PIC position to benefit him. Matjila and Survé appeared before the Mpati Commission into allegations of impropriety at the PIC last year on accusations of irregularities. The PIC report has since cleared them of wrong.
Modiba said his relationship with Daily Maverick, which is funded by undisclosed “donors”, started last year when he approached the publication asking to contribute opinion pieces.
Three of his articles - one about Gauteng ANC deputy chairman and Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, the other about the State of the Nation Address and the third one critical of the ANC - were subsequently published.
“After a few months there was an attack on Panyaza from AfriForum, I penned a response to the Daily Maverick but they never published it. When I wrote about issues of land reform they never published my work, which is when I stopped,” he said.
Around that time, Modiba added, he received a call from one of the Daily Maverick editors commissioning stories about Survé and the PIC commission.
“She asked me to write and do negative tweets about Dr Iqbal Survé, and the PIC Commission. That is when they told us to meet at the mall to give us cash so that they buy us data for our articles to post on their publication. I would meet on William Nicol, at the Shell Garage where they would send the drivers to come and deal with us. I am sure there were others because when I asked the drivers they told me there were other students from Wits that they were working with. I was given R500 every week but I never recruited any students,” said Modiba.
He said he decided to stop contributing articles to Daily Maverick “because the DM was paying for the narrative. They were pushing this narrative and propaganda on gullible students.
“I think they resorted to students because they once started using social media influencers. The people or the audience realised that these were paid for. They moved away from using social media influencers and are now using students as they realised that they are gullible. They are using young people and are conditioning them to believe their propaganda.”
Modiba said his experience with Daily Maverick was the reason he abandoned his plans to become a journalist.
“They give me money every week and I will do anything. (I) realised this is why I don’t want to go into journalism. I found myself in a position where I ended up selling my soul to push a certain narrative. I cannot sell my conscience,” he added.
Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said media companies were part of factions and broader political battles in the country.
“The accusation being made against the Daily Maverick is across the board. Currently, the media in South Africa cannot be relied upon to be objective and impartial in this country. It is my perception too that there are too many journalists and too many factions in the media that are part of factional battles in the ANC in particular. They became tools to create devils and angels in South African politics.
"As a result when it comes to political reporting my confidence is very low. Media is no longer my primary source of knowledge. I have to rely on other avenues,” said Matshiqi.