Monday, February 18, 2013

ANC Bedfellow: Sekunjalo: buy Independent Newspapers (18 major titles) for 2 Billion Rand (Reported in international media as from the funders of Al Jazeera network)



A BEE firm, which media reports prior today (including by Independent Newspapers) have consistently labelled as a politically connected: ANC Military-Tender/'inappropriate'-Loans-'Bed-Partner': which was funded in 1996 to help MK veterans, or as media put it: former ANC 'freedom fighters' after retirement, has just had a boon. Today Sekunjalo was announced as having bought Independent Newspapers. The deal is still subject to the competition commission, and Irish shareholder approval, but is thought to be a done deal.

This article will detail the deal, as well as the close connections between Sekunjalo and the Africa National Congress, and the response Sekunjalo has given to these public interest concerns on this matter.

Independent Newspapers was formerly owned by the Irish group: Independent News and Media. Independent Newspapers, also known for 'Independent Online' or IOL: Publishes: The Star, Sunday Independent, Cape Argus, Business Report ( and to cut the listing short: a total of 18 highly circulated newspapers).

Sekunjalo is being reported by most media as a company run by a philanthropist. When I saw its name this morning, it struck a note. Not only did I, like most thinking South Africans: this morning wonder where the 2 billion Rand to buy the newspapers came from: international media suggest that comes from the Qatari royal fund, which also funds Al Jazeera media. I also realised that Sekunjalo has a long and somewhat terrifying history, when it comes to being politically connected: and to some inappropriate incidences involving the military, a strange loan I shall mention, and inappropriate tender awarding to this reportedly closely-ANC-Allied firm.

Sekunjalo is a company which caused South African naval staff to have to take over previously privately taken care of Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Department overfishing et cetera investigation vessels. The Navy claims that the ships were not seaworthy when they took them on, so far as naval standards were concerned.

Politically connected: Sekunjalo's controversial awarding of the contract in 2011, despite lack of skills and clash of interest alleged, had caused: on its eventual withdrawal, a desperate ministerial note: causing the navy to take over. 50% of Sekunjalo revenue at the time of the awarding of that contract: came from a group called Premier Fishing. The contract was for about 1 billion Rand, which in South Africa is a large amount for taxpayers to pay, to a firm that purportedly had no expertise in the area and a deep conflict of interest.

Independent Newspapers Group's Business Report reported at the time of the awarding of the tender, of their now prospective future boss and owner:

'Survé was talking during a week in which Sekunjalo came under much scrutiny following the controversial awarding of a R1 billion tender by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to a consortium led by Sekunjalo. The tender is for the management and maintenance of the country’s marine research and fisheries patrol vessels for five years starting in April next year.

'Survé’s close ties to the ANC and the fact that Sekunjalo’s most valuable single investment is 100 percent of Premier Fishing, one of the largest fishing companies in the country, have given rise to concerns about the appropriateness of awarding the tender to the Sekunjalo consortium.

'Questions have been raised about the ability of Sekunjalo to carry out the necessary highly skilled repair and maintenance work on the fleet of eight vessels. Also questioned is the appropriateness of one of the country’s largest fishing companies managing and maintaining the ships that conduct anti-poaching patrols and inspections of trawlers for illegal fishing and other activities.

'A political dimension is added to the controversy in the form of Survé’s reportedly close ties with senior ANC leaders and the unusual R100 000 “loan” that Sekunjalo recently made to International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

'Critics charge that the Sekunjalo consortium was awarded the tender despite its lack of capacity and the apparent conflict because of the political ties. They further contend that Sekunjalo would merely funnel the bulk of the work to its partner Kobus Naval Design (KND) and gain an attractive commission in the process, which would be funded by taxpayers.'

Business Report | 'Sekunjalo defends BEE credentials, tender award' by Ann Crotty at December 12 2011 at 05:00am

http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news/sekunjalo-defends-bee-credentials-tender-award-1.1196308#.USHOHqXIuyo

It was also alleged that the tender was awarded irregularly: at the time.

There is perhaps only one article on the Internet, about the sale of this of national interest group, Independent Newspapers, which even mentions the fact that Sekunjalo is very closely linked to the ruling African National Congress party. That is an article by Business Report, owned by Independent News and Media. It was only tweeted sometime after I began to ask Independent Newspapers and the Business Report whether or not the ANC now owned them. Independent Newspapers were the ones who tweeted the article, while Business Report who wrote it did not.

The deal is still being looked through by the competition commission and by shareholders in the Irish Independent News and Media. Independent News and Media owns about 18 South African newspapers of great circulation, which are relied upon by many people within the country. These titles include what had been a favourite newspaper of mine: the Business Report title, the Johannesburg-based The Star, the Cape Argus, and many other very famous titles.

The New Age Newspaper, a national daily owned by the ANC (African National Congress) connected Gupta family: was set up late last year, widely branded as the African National Congress newspaper. Much of its advertising, according to its competitors: come from parastatals and the government. It is alleged that the advertising, and the sponsoring of its business breakfasts: consist of government funding of an African National Congress paper. The New Age often toes the party line. It is a boon for the African National Congress to have one newspaper support its plans, and policy.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation, has seen its heads and former board's members shuffled around, and called in to the African National Congress building: Lithuli House, when they did not toe the line. There have also been allegations involving the use of funding for the taxpayer funded South African Broadcasting Corporation. Independent Newspapers had at the time alleged the South African Broadcasting Corporation had become an ANC puppet to paraphrase their articles on the issue.

Media had in the past been relatively kind to the opposition Democratic Alliance party, somewhat less kind to the Congress of the People party, a lot less kind to the Inkatha Freedom Party, and have not portrayed the African National Congress in a light which it very much enjoyed. The African National Congress prior to the founding of the New Age Newspaper: consistently alleged that the media was attempting to oppose them.

With the Protection of State Information Bill, labelled by newspapers as the Secrecy Bill: especially due to the broad powers that it had reportedly given to cover up corruption as claimed in the allegations of newspapers: one element of that may well have been addressed.

Consistent suing of media by the African National Congress, a call to boycott the newspaper City Press: over the publishing of a very unflattering picture/painting of the President of the Republic of South Africa, and the bullying of the First National Bank company: into shelving the original footage of interviews they did with the children of South Africa: as some of it portrayed the African National Congress government as corrupt. These make quite a list of recent developments to do with the African National Congress.

It was understood, that the government desired that Independent Newspapers be sold to local buyers, preferably black economic empowerment buyers. That in itself, means that there was only really one company or consortium which would likely be sold these 18 important newspapers.

It has been suggested that the funders of the Al Jazeera news service, the Qatari monarchy: put up the funding for the African National Congress linked Sekunjalo consortium: to buy the major newspapers of South Africa.

After consistent requests made by myself for comment from the Independent Newspapers Group: the Independent Online twitter account, then: tweeted an article: in which the head of Sekunjalo consortium said that he had too much integrity to turn it into an ANC group of papers. He also promised certain internal measures to ensure independence. It is uncertain whether or not these independent measures will be adequately monitored. He said that he believes a newspaper should entertain a wide diversity of views.

The sale to an ANC (African National Congress) linked consortium: could not come at a better time for the African National Congress. With much help from media, perception of the African National Congress is down. Maphela Ramphele, a former ANC member: is expected to announce her own political party today. Independent Newspapers: had been one of the major groups seemingly supporting her to this time and date.

Below is Independent Newspapers Group's interview with their new expected owner:  Dr Iqbal Survé, and a few quotes I shall make beforehand:

'INM SA does not have an editorial charter protecting editorial independence. Instead editorial independence is governed by the letters of appointment of the individual editors of group titles, which states they have full responsibility for the editorial and commercial content of the newspapers. Editors also sign an internal code of practice.

'Asked about public interest concerns around his links to the ANC, Survé said this would not become an issue because he had a strong personal commitment to editorial independence.

'“I am a businessman and I have run Sekunjalo with integrity,” Survé said, adding that no interest group should have prominence over any other. “We must reflect the views of everybody and newspapers must support democracy and the growth of the economy. You must have many divergent views in a newspaper.”

'He intended to deal with questions of editorial independence by setting up an independent advisory board which would consult with management, editors, staff and outside the business to define editorial charters.

'He said he was open to approaches from the group’s staff, which had already extensively discussed establishing a staff trust which could take a share of the company to incentivise employees and involve them in decisions around developing the company.'

Business Report | 'Independent Newspapers to be sold for R2bn' by Samantha Enslin-Payne and Peter De Ionno at February 18 2013 at 08:00am

http://www.iol.co.za/business/companies/independent-newspapers-to-be-sold-for-r2bn-1.1471854



Also take note of:

'Sekunjalo, KND wins DAFF ship maintenance deal' by Defence Web at 28 November 2011 14:40

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=21585&catid=74&Itemid=30

'DAFF withdraws Sekunjalo maritime patrol vessel tender inquiry' by Defence Web at 25 April 2012 17:22

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25203&Itemid=106


'SA Navy takes over management of state-owned maritime patrol vessels' by Defence Web at to April 2012 12:52

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24716&Itemid=233

Mail and Guardian | 'Navy called to keep coast clear after fishy tender deal' by South African Press Association at 19 March 2012 09:02

http://mg.co.za/article/2012-03-19-navy-called-to-keep-coast-clear-after-fishy-tender-deal

Mail and Guardian | 'Tender row rocks fisheries department's boat' by Craig McKune at 15 December 2011

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-12-15-tender-row-rocks-fisheries-departments-boat

'Oceans vulnerable as fisheries department fails to award patrol ship contract' by Defence Web at 19 March 2012 15:44

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=24447:oceans-vulnerable-as-fisheries-department-fails-to-award-patrol-ship-contract&catid=51:Sea&Itemid=106

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