With The Economist having given the aspirations of South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, a ringing endorsement, the African National Congress was returned to power in the 8 May election, albeit with a reduced majority
Whatever one’s views about President Cyril Ramaphosa, there can be little doubt that the evidence given before the Zondo, Nugent and Mpati commissions of inquiry – which he initiated – into the pervasive corruption of the Jacob Zuma era has, for months, enthralled the nation.
The Mpati commission is investigating allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation which invests the monthly stop order pension deductions of almost two million civil servants and pensioners on behalf of the Government Employees Pension Fund.
In 2013, the former CEO of the PIC, Dr Daniel Matjila made the inexplicable decision to lend controversial businessman and ANC supporter Dr Iqbal Survê almost a billion rand to buy the former Argus Group newspapers then owned by Tony O’Reilly. The company which was close to bankruptcy, owned titles like the Cape Times, the Cape Argus, the Pretoria News, The Star, the Daily News and the Diamond Fields Advertiser. The decision was inexplicable because print newspapers are a dying industry and were clearly not a safe haven for pension fund investment.
Two years after the loan was granted, research by Dr James Myburgh, who runs the Politicsweb website, showed that Survé was making no effort to repay the loan and that interest was mounting. Survé’s response was to play the race card.
Then, in November last year, finance minister Tito Mboweni revealed in parliament that Survé was refusing to repay the loan. A month later the PIC wrote off the loan in circumstances that seem suspicious.
Immediately after taking control of the Independent Media newspapers in late 2013, Survé started dismissing senior white staff such as Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois and terminating the columns of people like the doyen of labour reporters, Terry Bell – despite protests by trade union federation Cosatu.
At the time Survê claimed to have been a personal friend of and physician to Nelson Mandela and to have treated him ‘on and off the island’.
He also claimed that the role he had played as a sports psychologist had helped the Springboks to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Devoid of truth
Research by Bell proved both these claims to be devoid of truth. When businessman Peter Flack specifically asked Mandela about Survé, Mandela did not know who Survé was and was unable to recall ever meeting him. The response on social media to Survé’s self-aggrandising abuse of the Mandela name was vitriolic.
At the time that Bell published his findings, Edwards Griffiths, the CEO of SA Rugby Football Union in 1995, was visiting from England and I made contact with him. He was adamant that Survé had absolutely nothing to do with the Springboks at the time and had played no role in their victory.
With Independent Media now effectively bankrupt and losing millions of rands each year, increasing numbers of staff are leaving and have left the company and it has lost more than a hundred of its best and most senior newsroom staff in the past few years.
A year ago, three editors left Newspaper House, headquarters in central Cape Town of the Cape Times and the Cape Argus, within a few weeks of each other.
As a consequence, Page 31 of the Wits University annual ‘State of the Newsroom’ report for 2108 revealed that, with the exception of the editor Aneez Salie, the Cape Times does not have a single person in its newsroom with 16 years’ of experience or more. In strong contrast, Die Burger – the other morning newspaper in Cape Town – has ten staff members who have 16 years’ experience or more
Dougie Oakes, the recently-retired political editor of the Cape Times, claimed in a recent Daily Maverick article headlined ‘It’s time to go, Iqbal Survé’ that Sekunjalo Independent Media was utterly chaotic, that its newspapers constantly lied to the public, that white staff members were discriminated against, that interns were exploited by being paid a pittance and sometimes did not receive their salaries for months on end. These claims have not been denied by Survé.
Evidence before the Mpati commission so far seems to indicate a collusive relationship between Daniel Matjila and Survé which might explain why Matjila pushed the PIC to buy shares in AYO Technologies for a 29% stake, valuing Ayo at R14.8bn even though its assets were estimated at R292m and his own staff felt the price paid was excessive. In a recent City Press article Dewald van Rensburg showed that AYO shares, bought by the PIC – after pressure from Matjila – for R43 each for a total of R4.3 billion were now priced at R14.50 but nobody was buying them, indicating a massive loss on the investment for the PIC.
Survé has stated that he regards Matjila as a friend which is perhaps not surprising because, after the R4.3 billion AYO investment by the PIC, he splurged R140 million on apartments in the high-security Silo Complex in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.
On page 67 of his sworn testimony Survé stated on 2 April:
I am not involved in the operations of AYO. The Chief Investment Officer Mr Malick Salie through you Mr Commissioner, who is sitting at the back there, is available to deal with any aspects of the financials.
Two other Mpati Commission witnesses, former executives at AYO Technologies Kevin Hardy and Siphiwe Nodwele, testified that Survê instructed board members to inflate the financial figures to make the company more attractive to investors. Their evidence was confirmed by Survé’s chief financial officer, Naahied Gamieldien.
Magda Wierzycka, one of South Africa’s leading financial analysts pointed out the obvious criminality of such conduct
As a consequence of these scandals the PIC now wants AYO to return the R4.3 billion and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has called for an independent audit of the company’s finances.
With interest, Survé now owes R1.5 billion on the original PIC loan to buy the newspaper chain and, if he cannot or will not repay that amount, what are the chances of the PIC getting back the R4.3 billion it invested in AYO Technologies?
You are known by the company you keep. Survé was a confidante and business associate of South Africa’s most notorious white collar criminal, Brett Kebble, and attended his funeral in Cape Town in October 2005. A year later at an insolvency inquiry, he acknowledged that his friend had used him as a conduit to divert his stolen money through Survé’s personal bank account to the ANC in what seems to have been a classic example of money laundering.
Evidence has emerged of one of Survé’s companies making a financial contribution to a leading ANC MP.
After gaining control of the Independent Media newspapers, Survé unsuccessfully tried to partner with the notorious Gupta family who have since fled the country. This ended in litigation but he was, nevertheless, an invited guest at the notorious Gupta wedding at Sun City.
In October 2016, after the Gupta newspaper The New Age had, to escape accountability, withdrawn from the complaints adjudication system of the SA Press Council. Survé followed their example. His newspapers were facing dozens of complaints at the time and were forced to apologise to, among others, Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille.
Prior to the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec last year, Survé threw his weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa’s rival for the presidency He sponsored the launch of a book about her tenure at the African Union, praised her leadership qualities and one of his newspapers, the Sunday Independent attempted to undermine the CR17 campaign by falsely alleging that Cyril Ramaphosa was sexually exploiting woman students whose studies he was funding.
Survé is quite open about his ethnic antipathies. On 7 April 2015 in a speech in support of the Fees Must Fall activists at the University of Cape Town – who thereafter caused infrastructure damage estimated at a billion rand on campuses throughout the country – he called for a purge of white academic and administrative staff at the university. Then, on 2 April this year he told the Mpati commission that he was proud not be associated with any white institution. During Survé’s testimony his constant attacks on white people led one of the commissioners, Gill Marcus, to castigate him for the way in which he was abusing the commission as a platform to promote his anti-white ideology.
The editor of the Cape Times, Aneez Salie constantly seeks to ratchet up hatred against white South Africans by portraying them as racists – read my articles Tiger Tiger Five – Story of a Race Hoax and How the Cape Times Demonizes Farmers. Its sales figures have dropped substantially in recent years as more and more readers withdrew their support and stopped subscribing.
Ethical journalism was abandoned when Iqbal Survé took control of the Independent Media newspapers but so, too, was investigative journalism. His newspapers have, for obvious reasons, played no role in uncovering ANC-linked corruption and his reporters have never competed in the annual Taco Kuiper Investigative Journalism competition.
Survé attributes all criticism of his business methods to racism, but threats by him to sue his critics, including Rhoda Kadalie, have come to nothing.
In September last year, after pressure from his Chinese financiers, Survé terminated the weekly column by Asad Essa which was carried in his newspapers and on his IOL website. This was because Essa had written about the internment camps that China is building to incarcerate more than a million Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province because they are perceived to be a security threat.
As a reward, Survé was the only South African to be appointed to the First Council of the Belt and Road News Network (BRNN) in April, a major policy of China which has been described as ‘Debt-trap Diplomacy’.
Internally however, the damning evidence before the Mpati commission has turned the ANC against Survé. Just prior to the 8 May election, the ANC refused to accept a R1 million donation from him and this was welcomed by trade union federation COSATU.
In April last year, after Survé failed to get his Sagarmatha Technologies company listed on the JSE, he ordered his editors to carry front page articles comparing journalists who had questioned this project with apartheid-era propagandists.
SANEF, the South African National Forum described these articles as disgusting and said that their publication was ‘a sad day for South African journalism’.
But was the saddest day for South African journalism, not the day when Dr Dan Matjila – in order to give an ANC acolyte control over the biggest group of English newspapers in the country – deposited close to a billion rand in Iqbal Surve’s bank account, well knowing that Sekunjalo Independent Media would never be profitable and that the PIC would never recoup the money?