It’s all about the money: How the Daily Maverick’s shielding of the corrupt new dawn erodes credible journalism

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By: Ayanda Mdluli (Independent Media)

After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s sombre and depressing monologue to the nation on Thursday, it is safe to say that South Africa is on a slippery slope and the very edge of a precipice, that threatens the security of our sanctity and economy.

It has now become evident that those who are behind the so-called “new dawn” will stop at nothing to make themselves stinking rich, and by any means necessary. That means even using certain platforms of the fourth estate to drive their agendas and fight political battles.

The Daily Maverick, the online newsletter funded by the Oppenheimers and Afrikaner interests from Stellenbosch, and owned by Serbian Branko Brkic, is a case in point. Once again, they appear to have outdone themselves as protectors of President Ramaphosa and the new dawn’s constructive looting campaign.

Last week, an exposé led by Independent Media’s Piet Rampedi and widely followed up by other media houses, revealed how a portion of the R500 billion that was allocated by the Ramaphosa administration to fight Covid-19, has been looted through the awarding of PPE contracts to individuals with close proximity to the president. Social media was once again abuzz about how a company, that has no website and no prior experience in the health space, was awarded a R870 million contract. Another, which was awarded a contract worth R150 million, was only registered a few weeks prior to lockdown.

However, closer to the president’s home was the story of how his own spokesperson, Khusela Diko, was exposed as potentially influencing the awarding of a PPE contract of R125 million to her husband’s company, Royal Bhaca. The company was awarded the contract despite having no experience in PPEs. This company was newly formed, and he is the sole director in it.

Additionally, and over the last few months, cronies of the new dawn administration, especially those associated to SOEs, have been exposed to have looted these entities to the extent of tens of billions of rands.

Look at Eskom, as a prime example. Under the Ramaphosa-aligned Pravin Gordhan, as Minister of Public Enterprises, it has been shown that the power utility’s chief operations officer, Jan Oberholzer, had a massive conflict of interest and assisted companies in which he had shareholdings, to win contracts from South Africa’s chief energy supplier, to the tune of tens of billions.

An internal investigation showed that Oberholzer was found to have committed some serious transgressions and it was recommended he be disciplined. However, the newly appointed spokesperson at Eskom, Sikhonati Mantshantsha, crafted a media release claiming that there were no adverse findings against Oberholzer. This release has now been proven to be a lie. Mantshantsha is a former employee and associate editor of Daily Maverick.

These matters of grave national importance that reveal that all is still not well within the corridors of power or the darkening hallways of SOEs, are merely given lip service in terms of reporting by the Daily Maverick and its cohort. Instead, it appears as if there is an active deflection campaign in place to divert the public’s attention away from what is really happening at state, by casting aspersions where they are not warranted.

To illustrate this point, look no further than the very obvious Daily Maverick propaganda piece around the Sizwe IT Africa Group (Sizwe) contract with the Eastern Cape Department of Education.

Talk about inflated numbers and misleading information. The Daily Maverick and its writers are clearly in need of some education themselves, specifically math. In their article they claim the e-Learning contract awarded to Sizwe amounts to R528 million. This is incorrect. The entire contract is some R458m including VAT. It equates to approximately R204 per learner per month for a fully comprehensive e-Learning solution. This includes the tablet, 4GB of data per month, the e-Learning platform, security, backup assistance etc.

As an aside, the Eastern Cape is ironically a Ramaphosa stronghold and the data that is being provided within the contract is by MTN, chaired by Ramaphosa ally, Mcebisi Jonas.

Nowhere in the Daily Maverick articles is Jonas mentioned nor is MTN for that matter.

Truth is stranger than fiction however, and well-placed sources in the Eastern Cape government, indicate that the noise about the tender is sour grapes, emanating from Vodacom.

The Vodacom consortium failed to win the contract, despite having had it for many years through multiple renewals.

Vodacom was in a partnership with a Nigerian businessman in the Eastern Cape who is known for his corrupt activities. (The name and the affairs of the businessman are known, and all will be revealed at a later stage).

More importantly, much more will be revealed about the relationship between this businessman and the husband of a senior minister inside the Ramaphosa administration.

What the Daily Maverick is not telling you is that the fight over the eLearning contract in the Eastern Cape was between two Ramaphosa allies and another faction in the province.

The only company that had the capability to provide a comprehensive e-Learning system at the time of the request, was Sizwe IT. The company’s solution was the only one that was capable of delivering to all 75 000 pupils in the Eastern Cape, and within the timespan required.

Sizwe IT not only delivered the tablets, but also uploaded the e-Learning material on each tablet, insured each tablet – because one would expect them to get lost or damaged – and has provided maintenance for the tablets and worked with MTN to ensure that data is optimised for each pupil and teacher.

What the Daily Maverick won’t tell you is that this is one of the most efficient and effective e-Learning contracts and in a region that has been devastated by the inability to deal with the Covid-19 impact on the health care system.

For once, the Eastern Cape government and its education department should be applauded for thinking ahead of the curve, especially after Ramaphosa’s announcement yesterday that schools will be closed for at least a month and learning will be extended into 2021.

Clearly, if the Daily Maverick had their way, it would have meant that many pupils would not have had access to learning during these difficult times.

The Eastern Cape education department has made it possible for learners to now continue their curriculum via these tablets. Ramaphosa’s statement on closing schools did not apply to private schools and again it shows that the private school sector, where the privileged send their children, and who can afford tablets and computers, not only remain open but can even do so with remote learning.

Many funders have questioned why Ramaphosa acted selectively by closing public schools but keeping private schools open….could this extremely unjust, highly controversial and seemingly irrational decision be anything to with the fact that the president’s brother, Douglas, has been appointed to the board of the largest private school company listed on the JSE – CURRO holdings?

Far from having our children and teachers’ best interests at heart, it is plain to see that these decisions are based on whatever financial interest is driving the agenda of those in charge.

Daily Maverick’s poor reporting can also be seen in how it positions the article in question, referring to Ayo Technology Solutions and Sizwe as “Iqbal Survé’s”. This is a shameful and deceitful propaganda campaign against Dr Iqbal Survé, chairman of Independent Media and Sekunjalo, which knows no boundaries.

They have published almost 100 articles over the last few years to tarnish his reputation and to try and destroy Independent Media. In this shameful article they once again try to link Survé to a legitimate and above-board contract in the Eastern Cape by referring to Sizwe IT Survé owned.

What Daily Maverick is, again, not telling you, is that Survé is not a shareholder, nor an official or director of AYO and only has an indirect shareholding at AEEI, as it is Sekunjalo Investment Holdings the company, of which Dr Survé is chair, that has the shares in AYO.

AYO in turn, has shares in Sizwe.

Despite knowing full well that the contract has nothing to do with Survé, the Daily Maverick tries to weave his name into the story, making their intentions obvious.

It appears they are labouring under the mistaken belief that by putting pressure on Survé, then his publications will hopefully stop exposing the corruption of the Ramaphosa administration. What is particularly concerning though, is how every time there is a story or media queries from Independent Media that touch on the president and his cronies, the Daily Maverick issues a counter article with the sole apparent purpose of deflecting unwanted attention.

This is what our media industry has come to. For those like the Daily Maverick and cohort, truth and facts come second to using their voice and reach to fight political battles and protect business interests. Cloaked under a veneer of media respectability, they have been able to infiltrate the homes of unsuspecting citizens. Enough is enough though, it is time this is stopped.

There is no doubt that the people of the country are tired of the looting of this country. That there is looting of the R500 billion raised to support those in need from the fallout of Covid-19 is far more than a disgrace, it is a human tragedy of the first order. That this appears to be indelibly linked to the ruling administration is tantamount to treason. It is a total betrayal of trust.

To counter these developments and to ensure that our so-called leaders are accountable to us, the people, Independent Media has established a revamped and well-resourced investigations unit, which will expose the looting by close allies of Ramaphosa, that amounts to tens of billions of Covid-19 funds.

It is my firm belief that today’s pathetic article by the Daily Maverick, is a pre-emptive strike by the Ramaphosa faction to prevent the exposé of the real corruption that has come to characterise his tenure as president.

Watch this space and, as always, I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

* Ayanda Mdluli is the Editor: Special Investigations at Independent Media