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Fake and unfortunate news

Noseweek takes no joy in watching businesses implode. Invariably there are good people affected while the scallywag froth partake in a pillage, scuttle and burn – all the while telling their faithful crew that the ship is not only afloat but on course to find the New World.

This explains Dr Iqbal Survé – the thin-skinned owner of the Sekunjalo’s Independent Media – who, until early in April, was on course to pull a massive heist of workers’ money to save his hide from looming embarrassment.

When we first reported on Survé’s latest venture called Sagarmatha Technologies (nose219 & 220) we were certain something was amiss. Survé’s newspapers were giving this non-entity an inordinate amount of press coverage.

Survé used Business Report – one of the few publications in his fold with any remaining credibility – to lead the charge under the captive guidance of its editor Adri Senekal de Wet, who has done an exceptional job of destroying the remaining credibility of this once stellar business publication.

The actual depths of the scam all became apparent on 28 March 2018 when Sagarmatha finally played its hand: it released a pre-listing statement in preparation for a private placement announcement on the JSE. Besides claiming it anticipated a listed valuation of close-on R50 billion and despite having no assets or exceptional business offering, the pre-listing statement made a host of hugely optimistic assertions, all the while hiding behind the claim that they were really the next Facebook or Amazon, so all the holes in its story should be overlooked. 

Suddenly, the puff pieces, the glossy profiles and adverts made sense.  Until this point the only information available was that published by Business Report – which offered nothing of substance except repeating phrases like “African Unicorn”, “super-galactic highway” or “Africa’s first multi-sided platform company”, praising Survé or gloating about its “international advisory board”. 

Within no time amaBhungane’s Sam Sole and Business Day were able to expose the farcical reality: Sagarmatha was a ruse to raise lots of cash, probably government pensions, to help plug Independent Media’s massive debt hole and to help bail out the media company which is technically bankrupt.

Probably due to these reports, the JSE, who’ve helped looters such as the Guptas and Brett Kebble in the past, finally pulled the plug on Sagarmatha’s listing on Friday 13 April.

Real journalism saved the day. Business Report clearly demonstrated what happens when the media is captured by nefarious, narcissistic interests. There are fine journalists at Business Report but when your editor is the cheerleader-in-chief for a propaganda war to promote the bosses’ businesses interests, you cannot expect any critical thinking in that newsroom.

It is for this reason, once again – as if there haven’t been enough examples – that independent, reputable news platforms need all the support they can get. Read what was reported in Business Day, Noseweek’s piece and Sole’s analysis on Sagarmatha (which can all be found online) and then compare it with the captured “truth” of Business Report. You be the judge and decide which reality you would rather exist in – Survé’s fantasy unicorn world or the naked truth.

Which makes the current unhappiness at The Sunday Times all the more disturbing.

The latest staff rebellion gripping South Africa’s largest Sunday newspaper is being led by the black caucus who claim they are being ignored, underpaid, overworked and overlooked in favour of newly recruited celebrity journalists. Leading the protest is “old” Times celebrity writer, Mzilikazi wa Afrika. EFF leader Julius Malema has thrown his weight behind them, predictably tweeting: “Racism is big in media houses like The Sunday Times…our black brothers and sisters are treated like trash by their white bosses”. 

Since Andrew Bonamour took over the Times Media Group (now Tiso Blackstar) in 2012, the company has conducted ruthless cost-cutting and retrenchment campaigns. 2018 increases have been “pitiful”, while staff petitions have been ignored. Tensions recently rose significantly when rumour circulated that the group’s two new celebrity recruits, Ranjeni Munusamy and Karyn Maughan are earning “in excess of R100,000”. This is South Africa where a dash of racism is added to every dish.

The dilemma: To address the decline in readership and advertising revenue – intimations of mortality – managers scrimp and scrape, inter alia on workers’ salaries and benefits, to be able to afford new celebrity writers who, hopefully, bring their own established readership with them.

That’s the theory, anyway.

The Editor

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