The Star Late Edition

The orchestrat­ed smear campaign to undermine the Sekunjalo Group continues Adri Senekal de Wet

- ADRI SENEKAL DE WET Adri Senekal de Wet is Executive Editor: Business Report.

RAY MAHLAKA, a Business Maverick reporter, appears to have deliberate­ly ignored critical hard facts when he published his “story” on the Daily Maverick platform yesterday. Mahlaka “reported” on the Sekunjalo Group’s presentati­on to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF) this week.

To better understand the facts and the various perspectiv­es, Business Report will publish online Sekunjalo’s full presentati­on, which dealt with matters arising out of the Mpati Commission Report dealing with alleged impropriet­y at the Public Investment Corporatio­n (PIC).

Sekunjalo, along with some of its investee companies, together with MMI Investment­s, which also registered legitimate concerns about the commission, had been invited by the SCoF to speak about their concerns.

Dispelling several of the hitherto accepted “truths” sprouted by various members of the establishm­ent to date, Sekunjalo’s presentati­on highlighte­d key aspects of the report, countering them with the actual facts.

Sekunjalo chairperso­n Dr Iqbal Survé confirmed that the PIC had never made an investment in Sekunjalo Investment Holdings nor had it made an investment in Sagarmatha

Technologi­es. Importantl­y, the Mpati Commission and the subsequent report had made no adverse findings against Sekunjalo, AYO Technology Solutions, Premier Fishing or Independen­t Media.

He also reiterated that Sekunjalo did not “channel” funds to any of these companies, as suggested by Mahlaka. The funds were invested by the PIC against detailed pre-listing-statements or in-depth proposals that presented proper business cases.

Overlooked in Mahlaka’s article, for example, and in PIC chief executive Abel Sithole’s commentary, was that the PIC itself had invested in Independen­t Media, outside of Sekunjalo Independen­t Media (SIM), the special purpose vehicle used to purchase

Independen­t Media. Clearly, the PIC considered Independen­t Media a good buy (as it did with Naspers, where, as confirmed by Sithole, it is over-exposed to the tune of R250 billion. That’s a lot of eggs in one basket.)

The reality, and something we have mentioned more than once, is that since Independen­t Media changed ownership in 2013, Survé has been a target and attacked from all sides, resulting in an avalanche of carefully curated story-lines spread far and wide that undermine and question Survé’s integrity, which have then spread to many of the organisati­ons in which his company has invested. The questions as to why this may be are numerous and legendary.

It may well be that Survé is under fire because he is not a traditiona­l newspaper man, or his political leanings differ from those of the establishm­ent, or that he was the first person of colour to purchase a large and very influentia­l media house in democratic South Africa and, therefore, has access to a larger share of the market than Independen­t Media’s competitor­s. It may even be because someone just doesn’t like him. It could be all of the above reasons or none at all.

Be that as it may, Survé was a very successful businessma­n long before

Independen­t Media and any interactio­ns with the PIC.

He has a keen intellect and understand­ing of the digital environmen­t and intrinsica­lly understood the fundamenta­l requiremen­t to include the previously excluded majority in the day-to-day mix of news and stories. In the pursuit of equalising the news divide, he has ruffled more than a few feathers.

All that aside, the media, from whichever quarter they come, are still duty bound to report on the truth and in an unbiased and objective manner and without an agenda.

Mahlaka, for example, presents a one-sided narrative in his story. He reports on comments made by the PIC’s Sithole, but does not ever counter with what Sekunjalo stated in its presentati­on.

It is this kind of shaded perspectiv­e and reporting perpetuate­d by the “follow-me” media that has led to a single-sided narrative, which does not allow for any other version and most certainly not the truth or real facts.

Highlighti­ng this, the Sekunjalo presentati­on to the SCoF detailed that: “Since the acquisitio­n of Independen­t Media, more than 3 000 articles, targeting him (Survé), Independen­t Media and the Sekunjalo Group have been published, in print, radio, television and online, accompanie­d by lots of vitriol.”

Recent reports analysed by an impartial social media expert in this regard show how the Sekunjalo Group and Survé have been targeted by, among others, the Daily Maverick, News24, Primedia and Arena Holdings.

Dr Wallace Mgoqi, the chairperso­n of AYO, told the SCoF: “It cannot be ignored that the propaganda perpetuate­d by the toxic media resulted in the false and misleading narrative that was ultimately published in the Mpati Commission Report. This is not only unconstitu­tional, illegal, defamatory and discrimina­tory but goes against all values of democracy.”

Mahlaka’s narrow interpreta­tion of Wednesday’s SCoF meeting also failed to report that, whereas the courts have their role to play, the PIC, which manages money on behalf of workers who belong to the Government Employees Pension Fund, and which is also accountabl­e to Parliament, has a fiduciary duty to manage these monies wisely and that expensive and drawnout court battles should be the last resort, not the first or second.

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