The fight for Independent Media is the fight for the soul of the country, according to Dr Iqbal Survé, Independent Media’s Executive Chairman, who further elaborated that there are certain entities who want South Africans to believe that the establishment and white people are all-powerful, know everything, are very cultured, and that black people are not.
Speaking during an interview with the international digital platform, Insight Factor – owned by Thabo Makwakwa and Sizwe Skhosana – Survé said: “Unfortunately, apartheid has not gone, apartheid has simply reinforced itself in a different form today, and so Independent Media for me, was an important vehicle to continue to tell the story.”
Survé explained how for nine years, he has fought hostile attempts to sink his businesses, with his adversaries “protesting” against him for buying and transforming Independent Media as the voice of black people, telling the real story of South Africa and Africa at large.
He made it clear that Sekunjalo would never succumb to calls for it to let go of Independent Media. Survé revealed that those who had called for him to give up the media house had promised that his detractors would leave him alone and his other businesses could continue if he did so.
“Of course, I cannot do that because we have fought for our freedom in this country and we have fought for media freedom and we have fought to have all voices heard,” Survé said. He also remarked how Independent Media was critical because of the large scale of Independent Media’s presence in the country, “reaching 10 million people a day, and it has an international presence”.
He shared how government hardly advertises in its titles because, as he puts it, they are “trying to teach us a lesson”.
Survé said there was also a campaign to prevent the private sector from advertising with Independent Media, a further clear-cut attempt to undermine the company. “They cannot go there and simply shut down Independent Media because that is an issue of media freedom,” said Survé.
Survé, who is also the chairperson of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, is faced with repeated attacks on his reputation and against his businesses. He believes he would not have been targeted by many of his competitors in the media space, the financial sector and in politics, had he not led the buy-out of the biggest media company in South Africa.
“The media is one of the most contested terrains in this country. My decision to go into the media was met with ferocious resistance by the establishment. Even today we’re still in a nine-year-long war …”
Survé said the attacks against him strengthened when his now transformed media giant began exposing white monopoly-controlled politicians’ involvement in corruption. Those included President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bank statements (CR17), and Covid-19 PPE scandals that implicated, among others, Inkosi Thandisizwe Diko, the now late husband of former presidential spokesperson, Khusela Diko.
However, Survé remains determined to transform the media narrative, to change the status quo – for black people to have a voice that tells their side of the story, pre-1994, a practically non-existent circumstance.
Survé said the idea of buying the entire Independent Media, as opposed to the initial idea of buying only the Cape Times, was because the general media in the country reflected black people as violent barbarians, which was different from how white people were depicted. “Black people are intellectuals, they are professionals, athletes and artists. The story and the history and correct reflection of our society, which is predominantly black, has never ever come to the fore.”
His newly created opponents subsequently launched a series of campaigns against him. He said he found it crazy that bidding competitors made a move to only allow Independent Media to be sold to the Sekunjalo consortium on the proviso that it sell some of the newspapers to other people. “They allowed the Irish to own the entire group, but they did not want us to. They even threatened to go to the Competition Commission at the time. After that, there were articles written in the competitors' media publications and for the next few years, a campaign to really belittle Independent Media.”
Survé said as the anger grew among the competitors, a campaign called Project T, which was directed at him personally, was started. Its leaders spent up to R30 million discrediting him and the media company to block advertisements and dwindle readership. “Because I tried to transform Independent Media, they made it seems like I was anti-white.”
White staff within Independent Media were not at all pleased when he changed the hitherto racially-biased salary scale, whereby white people were earning far more than their black colleagues for doing the same job, which was something he said he could not understand.
His drive to transform the media narrative did not stop with Independent Media. On realising that South African media houses were mostly relying on foreign news agencies to source African news, he then spent millions of rand on establishing the African News Agency (ANA), which has since become a successful African platform relaying African stories. ANA now exists in 40 of the 54 African countries on the continent and is followed by a global audience.
Survé said his aim was to see Africans telling their own stories and being masters of their own destiny. “It is a sound goal for us as Africans, South Africans especially, that we as black South Africans have the space to tell our own stories, because we do have good stories, except that ours are rarely told because the media is not controlled by us.
“There may well be good black journalists and good black editors working in other media houses, and they definitely are, however, the people that pull the strings at these publications, are still those with control over the purse,” said Survé.
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