Govt partners take major stake in Independent Newspapers

Date posted: June 21, 2013


By Herman Manson (@marklives) The Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) consortium has (finally) announced details of the ownership of the consortium that successfully bid for Independent News & Media SA. The consortium will hold 75% of the shares in the newspaper group while the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), will hold 25% (but wait – it’s not quite as simple as that – read on).

The publisher, about to be liberated from an Irish holding company widely credited with stripping a once powerful editorial operation to its bare bones, owns the Cape Times, Cape Argus, Weekend Argus, Daily Voice, The Star, Pretoria News, Saturday Star, Sunday Independent, Diamond Fields Advertiser, Weekend Pretoria News, Daily News, The Mercury, Post, Independent on Saturday, the Sunday Tribune, Isolezwe and a host of community newspapers.

SIM shares will be held by a host of stakeholders connected to the ruling Tripartite Alliance (consisting of the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP). the starThese include the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) investment company Kopano Ke Matlaka, SACTWU Investments Group (Proprietary) Limited and the Food & Allied Workers Union (represented by Basebenzi Investments). A special purpose vehicle will house a 10 per cent stake reserved for employees of the company. These investors, including Sekunjalo Investment Holdings itself (Sekunjalo Investment Holdings is a party to SIM and not the JSE Listed company, Sekunjalo Investments Limited), will hold 63% of the SIM shares.

The rest of the shares (36%) will be held amongst other the Black Business Chamber (Western Cape), “various independent South African Women’s business community organisations,” Sekunjalo Digital Media, Mvezo Development Trust (represented by Mandla Mandela), the Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Association (through the Military Veterans Trust), Western Cape Development Trust as well as business including Sandile Zungu, Tim Modise and Groovin Nchabeleng.

According to the statement released by Sekunjalo Independent Media the lead shareholder grouping in SIM will represent 63 per cent of the consortium while 36% of shares will be held smaller groupings (total = 100% of shares). In a twist the statement then talks about another 20% of shares that will possibly placed with ‘a Chinese Consortium,’ alongside the 25% now held by GEPF/PIC and the 75% held by SIM, which will obviously dilute the shareholdings of the PIC and SIM.

Anton Harber writes, “One can safely say now that Independent Newspapers, the country’s second biggest newspaper groups, is in hands which are closely tied to our ruling party, the ANC. This in itself is neither here nor there, depending on how Dr Survé plays that out and interprets his and his newspapers’ roles.”

In a recent interview, Survé told Grubstreet “… as South Africans, I feel our decision-making is often made on speculation and perceptions and we always assume the worst about our country and our people. Things have to change if we’re going to grow this nation.”

When ANC cadres discussed the role of the media in South Africa at Polokwane they said that “Building social cohesion and promoting values of a caring society are an essential part of the battle of ideas and must underpin and inform the manner in which the media operates.”

There seems to be potential for significant overlap in these two views.

But then, in the same interview, Survé also said “…I also believe that anyone who thinks that they control news – whether you’re a proprietor or whether you’re a government – is living in cloud cuckoo land. The world has changed…” In that he is correct – and the fortunes of Independent News & Media SA will rise or fall on the value he places on those words.

Hermaneutics is a column by editor Herman Manson. It indicates as much opinion as reporting.

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