This column first appeared on iol.co.za
Tiso Blackstar’s Business Day could by all accounts be considered irrelevant due to its small daily circulation of approximately 20 000 nationally.
It is therefore easy to dismiss Business Day’s rantings and media manipulation as insignificant especially when compared to the reach of Business Report (BR) in the Independent Media stable, which has more than 1.5 million daily readers.
Why then would I write this opinion piece? Well, Tiso Blackstar and its Sunday publication, Sunday Times have recently been under the spotlight, especially after its editor, Bongani Siqoko, bravely apologised for their shameful violation of the press code and media manipulation on several matters including the so-called SARS “rogue unit”.
Subsequently three prominent journalists were named, including the editor of the Financial Mail, Rob Rose, who, it has been hinted, was either paid or manipulated, to write negative stories. This manipulation and fake news presented by Sunday Times, Financial Mail and Business Day can be regarded as part of a deep rotten culture.
Evidence of Tiso Blackstar’s hypocrisy is clear to see beyond the Sunday Times’s well reported accusations and manipulations. The Steinhoff debacle, for instance, is reported but covered with kid gloves by Tiso Blackstar and Business Day.
If anything, it is reported with a deferential attitude to the individuals involved. A second example is their reporting on the South African Post Office, which in its last financial year lost R978 million. Now if the Post Office was run by a black executive it would most certainly have been headlined with article after article screaming about the incompetence of the executive in charge.
A different standard is applied to white companies as opposed to black companies.
Reporting on white companies is always qualified with an excuse, while black companies are treated with contempt, disdain and suspicion. Let’s look at Tiso Blackstar. Formerly Johnnic and Times Media Group, it proved to be a task beyond even (now President) Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale to transform this business.
In the case of Mvelaphanda, these businesses cost them billions and the current management and journalists have overseen the destruction of shareholder value, including a PIC loss of R7bn a few years ago. None of this is reported on by Business Day.
Perhaps it is because, according to well-placed sources at Tiso Blackstar, white management and journalists are paid more and given bonuses at the expense of black journalists. Business Day has a particular way of portraying black executives and black companies.
As an example, for many months, Business Day ran frontpage headlines about the PIC’s CEO, Dr Dan Matjila, who was allegedly in a romantic relationship with a woman called Pretty Louw despite Dr Matjila going on record in parliament denying any relationship.
Yet Business Day journalist, Carol Paton, rehashed this repeatedly in the Goebbels tradition of propaganda, revealing her bias towards a faction that wants Matjila removed for their own nefarious purposes. The recent Budlender report found unequivocally that Dr Matjila did not have a romantic or inappropriate relationship with Ms Louw.
One would think that Business Day owes Dr Matjila and Ms Louw an apology. Instead, they continue to focus on that part of the report which is unrelated to their initial allegation against him. They applaud white executives who have destroyed hundreds of billions of value but destroy a black professional who has increased the value of the PIC assets under management from R400bn to R2 trillion during his tenure as an executive.
Similarly, I and Sekunjalo are victims of Business Day and its shenanigans and defamatory campaign. There are desperate attempts to characterise the Sekunjalo Group in a negative way using the same Goebbels strategy. Despite Sekunjalo operating with integrity and never, in its twenty years of existence, been found wanting by any competent authority as a result of innuendo, gossip and hearsay.
Sekunjalo’s only “crime” is that we dared to invest in one of the largest media companies in South Africa and for that decision and our transformation agenda, we are crucified by Tiso Blackstar publications, including Business Day, on a continuous basis.
Other establishment media do not hesitate to repeat these lies as if they are gospel. They do this without any facts, data, evidence and any phone calls to us to fact check. They do this with a clearly defined corporate agenda and assassinating my character to serve their own needs. It goes beyond simply the fact that Tiso Blackstar is a competitor of Independent Media.
It goes to the heart of transformation of the South African economy, that a successful black business will not be tolerated by the establishment. An independently minded and owned black business is an anathema to untransformed elements at Tiso Blackstar, Business Day and other media houses. Economists and psychologists will have a field day trying to establish whether this campaign is purely driven by business greed, politics or subliminal racism.
Subliminal racism is defined as a mental process affecting someone’s mind without them being aware of it. Racial superiority and apartheid somewhat regrettably damaged these journalists that they fail to acknowledge the success of black businesses and black executives and black people in general. By calling them subliminal racists I am being kind for I have no doubt that for many their racism is far more overt .
I am a victim of this subliminal racism. As an example, I am a medical doctor with three degrees and an alumnus from world-class institutions, including Harvard. I have served and serve as chairman of many multilateral institutions. In the Sekunjalo Group we have some of the most prominent global business leaders and entrepreneurs on our advisory boards.
I would venture that there are very few Chairmen or CEOs of large corporations on the JSE that have similar qualifications or boards. Despite Sekunjalo’s success – winning numerous awards, my success as an entrepreneur and business leader, and our Group performance exceeding the market consistently over many years – we have never been given the acknowledgement or respect that is given to white businessmen or executives.
On the contrary, we are treated with disrespect and contempt. It is standard journalistic practise that you refer to a medical doctor as a doctor. Despite this, the journalists at Tiso Blackstar cannot bring themselves to refer to me as such. Of course I have no problem if you don’t call me a doctor, but I simply mention this as part of the subliminal racism inherent in their thinking and their writing.
A further example are entrepreneurs who have investments in public and private companies. They are not referred to in the same way as Business Day refers to the Sekunjalo Group investments, even in instances where we are a minority investor.
They would use adjectives like Iqbal Survé’s AEEI, Iqbal Survé’s AYO, Iqbal Survé’s Sagarmatha etc.to describe these companies, ignoring that each of these companies have independent boards and superb management teams and that I do not serve on any of these company’s boards or management teams.
In some instances, I am a very indirect minority shareholder. If they were not racist, they would refer to RMB as Rupert’s RMB or to Steinhoff as Wiese’s Steinhoff or to Naspers as Bekker’s Naspers or to Discovery as Gore’s Discovery. Why else would they characterise the companies that we have invested in, in this way, if it is not to undermine these companies. It is nothing other than subliminal racism.
Another example of outright manipulation, occurred as recently as yesterday when Carol Paton of Business Day deliberately misled her readers by suggesting that the commission of inquiry into the PIC includes Ayo and Sagarmatha. This is a blatant lie.
One assumes as a journalist she fact-checked the Government Gazette. There is not a single word in the terms of reference about Ayo, Sagarmatha or any other company, yet she deliberately did this to try and manipulate the narrative to serve her own corporate interests and faction. She is serving her masters and speaks with a forked tongue.
It would be interesting if the commission investigates Steinhoff, Tiso Blackstar and all the many companies that Bantu Holomisa highlighted. The media will have a field day since there are many people in these investments that are close to the puppet masters of Carol Paton.
As South Africans we must welcome a comprehensive investigation into the PIC as announced by President Ramaphosa since that must lead to stability of the largest asset manager on the African continent. I am certain that there are board members and executives of the PIC of integrity that would welcome the opportunity to clear the mud slinging from Business Day and the Tiso Blackstar stable.
What Carol Paton does not tell her readers is that Tiso Blackstar has surreptitiously approached the shareholders of Independent Media, including the PIC, on many occasions to try and consolidate the newspapers of the two businesses.
Tiso Blackstar is in deep financial trouble with significant bank debt and desperately requires consolidation to survive. Since we acquired Independent Media, instead of working together in the interests of media, journalists and employees, they launched this campaign to undermine Sekunjalo and myself.
This is the disgraceful use of media to undermine a respectable and legitimate business for corporate greed and predatory conduct by Tiso Blackstar. There are many good people working for Tiso Blackstar as there are many good people working for Independent Media and other media publications.
It is a Shakespearean tragedy that the good reputation of everyone is besmirched by this corporate greed, manipulation and fake news and a complete disregard for the true values of our young democracy by these rogue and paid-for journalists.
I hope that the editor and owners of Business Day and other media, including radio and television, will take this to heart and apologise to the South African public for their reckless manipulation of the facts and change the culture to that of fact checking, balance and not serving factional political interests or narrow corporate agendas.
It’s never too late to change. Perhaps you should take a leaf out of the book of Bongani Siqoko. You could learn a thing or two.
* Dr Iqbal Survé is executive chairman of the Sekunjalo Group.