Exposé: The dirty tricks campaign against Independent

Independent Media's executive chairman Dr Iqbal Surve.

Independent Media's executive chairman Dr Iqbal Surve.

Published Aug 23, 2016


This article is an exposé of the collusion, misinformation, defamation and sabotage against Independent Media, its executive chairman and associated companies, and all its employees, based on research conducted by the Journalism Intern Investigative Unit of Independent Media.

We have seen a staggering 25 articles published by journalists of a particular generation in the last 50 days alone. Is it a coincidence that the vast majority of these journalists are white and are virulently anti a democratically-elected government?

These are the statistics based on the research findings:

From late 2012, when Dr Iqbal Survé and Sekunjalo emerged as bidders for Independent, to the present a total of 368 articles have been written.

In these articles, as depicted in Graph 1, Dr Survé was negatively written about 266 times out of the total, using mostly conjecture and speculation; Sekunjalo, 207 times and Independent Media, 319 times.

These propaganda journalists, as it is only fair to call them, include Ed Herbst, Glenda Nevill, Alec Hogg, Gill Moodie, Terry Bell, James Myburgh, Donwald Pressly, Chris Whitfield, Ann Crotty, Marianne Thamm, Allister Sparks and Rhoda Kadalie - the last person not a journalist but a joiner of the “white boys” club who has finally found her spiritual home in the belly of the last apartheid president, as the deputy chairman of the De Klerk Foundation.

A few of the persons responsible for this barrage of propaganda have a history with Independent Media. Many worked for the company as contributors, staff writers, and one or two as virtual plants of the Democratic Alliance in our newsrooms.

One, Terry Bell, tried unsuccessfully to sue the company for unfair dismissal when he had never been an Independent employee, a fact confirmed by the Statutory Council for Printing, Newspapers and Packaging Industries, where his case was dismissed.

Another of these propagandists, Donwald Pressly, was an Independent employee, who was dismissed from the group for unethical conduct. In fact, he was dismissed precisely for acting as a DA propagandist masquerading as a journalist. Pressly spent most of his time at Business Report, where he was Cape bureau chief, at times doing the bidding of his bosom friend and DA handler, Pieter van Dalen, who shot at two black children in Khayelitsha in 2008 for no good reason. ( http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2011/02/10/childish-da- blacklists-our- reporter).

Another of these journalists, Ann Crotty, along with former Cape Times editor, Alide Dasnois, was part of an unsuccessful attempt to put together a rival bid to buy the company off the Irish owners before Survé could.

Following the Sekunjalo takeover, these ex-staffers saw Dr Survé not as a new employer but as the competitor to whom they had lost out.

Furthermore, these groups pulled out the stops during 2012 and 2013 to prevent the sale of Independent SA to Sekunjalo by rallying supporters in the PIC and the Competition Commission and using nominally “neutral” institutions in which they held sway, such as the SA National Editors’ Forum (SANEF).

As depicted in Graph 2, the articles published during the last four years reveal an interesting pattern and questionable agenda. The Media Online published 61 articles about Dr Survé, Sekunjalo and Independent in the past four years, while the Mail & Guardian published 51 articles, Times Media Group 116 and Media24 published 107. Some, like BizNews, have both a personal and commercial agenda.

Earlier this year, Dr Survé tweeted that Alec Hogg (BizNews) was a racist, since he only criticised black businesses funded by the PIC and never white businesses that account for the bulk of PIC investment.

Hogg (who ironically had many business failures funded by Mvelaphanda, who lost their investment with him) threw a petulant fit. Furthermore Independent displaced him on Davos coverage by becoming a media partner to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Prior to this, Alec Hogg portrayed himself as “Mr Davos”.

Well-placed sources also claim that Alec Hogg and BizNews have become “hired guns” for a public relations campaign, paid from London to effect regime change in South Africa.

This wave of propaganda by journalists of a particular generation is aligned to or led almost exclusively by individuals, institutions and publications which represented white domination of the media and broader business, and the protection of white privilege at media houses, including Independent.

They included former DA leader and Western Cape premier Helen Zille,who had Independent under her thumb during the Irish ownership and who has become hysterical about Independent, using large parts of her weekly newsletter to attack the company repeatedly. She eventually banned Independent subscriptions from her provincial government offices.

Also included are the Mail & Guardian under the then editorship of Nic Dawes, Andrew Bonamour’s Times Media Group and Koos Bekker’s Naspers with its subsidiary Media24, led by Esmaré Weideman.

According to well-informed sources from within these white media houses and the DA, this highly orchestrated, well-resourced and strategically planned public relations campaign was designed to destabilise and undermine the reputation of a new black-owned media business and its chairman.

It all boils down to politics. Survé, a former anti-apartheid activist, represents the greatest threat to the monolithic narrative that has held sway in the South African mainstream media even after the 1994 democratic breakthrough; a narrative in favour of traditional, established (read white) business, against fundamental transformation of our economy and our society, against the government and the ruling party, and against the transfer of ownership of any significance in the media.

It is a narrative that cannot survive significant black ownership (and control at management level) of big media companies such as Independent. Hence the virulent fight-back represented in the data we have collected.

The data gathered shows, in no uncertain terms, the lengths these journalists of a particular generation will go to undermine Dr Survé and Independent.

There was a large spike in Survé articles in 2014 with as many as 125 articles appearing that year. It is possible that 2014 represented the ‘height of frustration’ and the beginnings of the fight-back, since the sale went through in late 2013.

Prior to that, in 2012, just 16 articles were written in the build-up to Sekunjalo taking ownership of Independent Media.

This year, an astounding 103 articles have already been written, suggesting that 2016 will see another “spike” following the relative lull of 2015.

The campaign of distortion, which cannot be called anything else, operates in a way where defamatory articles are thrust out at certain and timed intervals from the same people and then repeated in other (allied) platforms to create public “buzz” around false stories and to establish them in the public mind as the truth.

To understand this modus operandi, a case in point is the recent misinformation surrounding Independent’s restructuring plans, which are necessitated by and follow established norms and practices in other media houses, and are completely in keeping with labour law.

One of the propagandists, Pressly, writing in his suspiciously well-funded website, supported by Dennis Worrall, formerly from the National Party and DA, propagated the lie that Independent would “close down” the Cape Times newspaper and collapse it into its sister Cape publication, the Cape Argus, leading to massive job losses in both publications. The story doesn’t even have a single grain of truth to it, but it was recycled across the same platforms. The main objective - to create panic on social media, in the public domain, and definitely inside Independent itself.

Graph 3 compares the treatment of other media owners and CEOs of competitor companies, against the virulently negative coverage of Dr Survé.

Could it be that this is something that happens to all media owners, with no sinister motives? Something that Dr Survé should just suck up and accept?

The chairman of Naspers, Jacobus Petrus “Koos” Bekker had a measly 15 articles written negatively about him in the same period of four years. The CEO of Caxton, Terry Moolman suffered only 13 negative articles in three years and the CEO of TMG, Andrew Bonamour, only had 11 articles written about him, despite a Financial Services Board (FSB) investigation into insider trading.

So how did Survé reach a total of 266 negative articles?

There is a pattern of consistency. The alleged skeletons that were consistently raised by these propaganda journalists, surfaced one by one like a tag team after a specific amount of days, as though there was a strict allocation of who writes what and when.

In theory, Dr Survé and Independent should by now have succumbed to these malicious, racist and spiteful attacks and this must baffle these journalists of a particular generation.

Dr Survé has always maintained that whilst Independent is not pro a specific political party, he will guarantee that the ANC will have a voice in equal measure to all other political parties in line with the company’s commitment to fairness and balanced reporting. This is what these journalists of a particular generation cannot accept.

Dr Survé may personally support the liberation movements, however, he has always upheld the editorial integrity of his titles. This is what Dr Survé offers and this is why he and Independent must be destroyed by these journalists of a particular generation and white media interests.

Independent is the only large private media house that stands in the way of regime change and media capture by white economic and political interests.

Apartheid was founded on the ideology of white supremacy and denigration of blackness. In 1994 South Africans rejected the past and defeated apartheid. But they did not end the ideology underpinning it. Even in areas of life where one would expect different, more progressive attitudes, racism is hard to defeat.

The relentless attacks on Dr Survé, Sekunjalo and Independent Media are proof of this.

The data is irrefutable, the motives as clear as daylight. A fight is taking place in the South African media space, a fight about what kind of society post-apartheid South Africa will become.

On the one hand are progressive forces - institutions, organisations and individuals - that want to see a fundamental transfer of power in all its forms, to the majority of the population. On the other are the forces of reaction, people who want economic and political power in South Africa to remain white.To these people, Independent and Dr Survé represent a problem and obstacle. They (and their funders) are determined to work night and day to destroy the obstacle standing in their way.

* Research conducted by the Journalism Intern Investigative Unit, Independent Media.

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