It has been revealed that a move by the SA National Editors Forum to try and force the Public Investment Corporation to execute a hostile takeover of Independent Media is largely driven by former members of the Press Council working with a minister and two former ministers.
A RECENT move by the SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) to try and force the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) to execute a hostile takeover of Independent Media is largely driven by former members of the Press Council working with a minister and two former ministers.
In its letter, Sanef asked the PIC to ringfence the newsrooms of the Independent Media titles by introducing a “Chinese wall” between management and the editors of the titles.
Sources within this grouping – which revolves around several Sanef officials, senior former journalists and members of the Thuma Mina media group – said desperation and panic had set in as a result of perceived loss of support in the ANC for President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The grouping is astounded by the strength of the anti-Ramaphosa camp in the ANC and fear that, should a special conference be called, Ramaphosa could be recalled as the president of the ANC reminiscent of what happened to former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. Social media is abuzz with a list of possible top six from different camps within the ANC, all of which exclude Ramaphosa and his supporters.
This grouping, which includes PIC spokesperson Adrian Lackay – who is linked as an associate of Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, sees the recent editorial changes at Independent Media as problematic for Ramaphosa as the editors at Independent Media have exposed the CR17 campaign funding and PPE corruption, especially by Ramaphosa spokesperson Khusela Diko.
The source referred to how Independent Media exposed the PPE corruption, while other media sympathetic to Ramaphosa ignored it for almost two weeks until they were forced to report on the grand scale of the PPE corruption.
The group hatched a plan which Independent Media has seen and has confirmed. There are individuals working to influence the State Capture Commission’s narrative against Independent Media by deliberately singling out the African News Agency (ANA) as a recipient funding from State Security Agency (SSA).
ANA confirmed this and indicated that the funding was for services rendered. In what was unusual, evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius urged on Dr Sydney Mufamadi to disclose the name of ANA and even claimed that the director-general had given clearance for this.
Many who had an agreement with the SSA, including journalists from other media companies, did not have their names disclosed because the commission would first have to seek permission from those media houses and journalists. No such permission was sought from ANA.
The plan of the group was to immediately use journalists in the Thuma Mina group – especially from Daily Maverick and News24 – who together within the space of one week published nine articles in a synchronised manner on ANA and the SSA. Soon after the revelation at the state capture commission, Sanef released a pre-planned statement without consulting Independent Media, falsely claiming that ANA was part of Independent Media and condemning Independent Media and its journalists.
Its editors responded forcefully. Sanef, however, did not leave it there. According to sources within Sanef, there was deep division within the volunteer organisation of journalists when its executive wrote to the PIC, ostensibly to protect journalism. In the letter to the PIC, Sanef was setting the ground for the PIC to intervene in Independent Media. Coincidentally, on the same day as the first letter, the PIC put in a summons against Independent Media.
The amateur way in which this was contrived is easy for the public to see. Independent Media’s executive chairman and editors separately wrote a scathing response condemning the interference as Sanef had no locus standi in this matter. The Independent Media investigation unit can reveal that minister and former ministers did not involve just the PIC, but are also working with two banks as a last-ditch effort to shut down the accounts of the Sekunjalo Group, a shareholder of Independent Media, a move expected to render Independent Media unable to trade or operate.
The plan was to use the ANA-SSA matter as a pretext for the banks to shut down the accounts of Sekunjalo on the back of reputational exposure. Over the next few weeks, Independent Media will expose more of the dirty tricks campaign by this grouping, which includes former members of the Press Council.
Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé said that the company would release a detailed statement on all these matters. “It is a disgrace, it is a blight on media freedom, it is a challenge and undermining our Constitution and freedom of press. I am glad Independent Media’s investigation unit has been able to expose this. We will release a statement within the next week on this repeated exposure by politicians against our group.” | Investigations Unit