In 1914 J.B.M. Hertzog forms the National Party. The following year Nasionale Pers i.e Naspers is formed by the same man, along with a daily newspaper, De Burger, later known as Die Burger.
D F Malan, a former minister in the conservative Dutch Reformed Church is persuaded to become editor and is the main supporter of Hertzog’s National Party.
In 1916 Naspers publishes its first magazine Die Huisgenoot.
In 1918 the company takes a further step towards expansion when its book publishing operations is founded as Die Burger Boekhandel.
The racially exclusive Afrikaner secret society, Die Afrikaner Broederbond is formed. A Broederbond circular from this time states: ‘The Afrikanerdom shall reach its ultimate destiny of domination in South Africa . . . Brothers, our solution for South Africa’s troubles is not that this or that party shall gain the upper hand, but that the Afrikaner Broederbond shall rule South Africa.”
D. F. Malan is one of the driving forces behind the organisation.
Piet Cillié editor of Die Burger from 1954 until 1985 is a staunch supporter of the National Party, under B J Vorster and P W Botha. Cillié upholds the apartheid system through many pro-segregation editorials until the very end.
1973-1977 The National Government under B J Vorster attempts to purchase the Washington Star. A slush fund is set up to acquire the Citizen and other English language newspapers. The secret operation is exposed by the Rand Daily Mail as the “Information Scandal”
1984, Naspers, as part of its broad propagandist strategy acquires Drum Publications, with titles consisting of City Press, Drum and True Love & Family. As well as a 50% interest in Jane Raphaely & Associates.
In 1985, under P W Botha, Nasionale Pers enters into an arrangment with Perskor, the media company founded by HF Verwoerd and publisher of Die Vaderland and Transvaler to form an all-white, Afrikaner-owned electronic pay-television media business, called M-Net, the new entity eventually lists on the JSE Securities Exchange (JSE).
In a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), former Rand Daily Mail journalist Raymond Louw is recording as having felt “it was significant that M-Net, soon to be owned by a consortium of newspapers, got its licence in the same month as the Mail was closed” although any connection is denied by the government until this day, The Mail was clearly closed due to pressure from the Botha government and covert operations conducted by the Broederbond and Bureau for State Security (BOSS) as part of the Information Scandal.
In 1987 Naspers introduces English family magazine You.
In 1993, M-Net is divided into two companies — M-Net itself becomes a pure pay-television station while the company’s subscriber management, signal distribution and cellular telephone activities are formed into a new company called MultiChoice Limited (later renamed MIH Holdings Limited).
Nasionale Pers itself lists on the JSE on 12 September 1994 and in 1998 the group’s name is officially changed to Naspers.
The TRC is set up in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act , No 34 of 1995, and is based in Cape Town. The mandate of the commission is to bear witness to, record and in some cases grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes relating to human rights violations, reparation and rehabilitation.
Naspers publications publish cartoons depicting P W Botha as the only man able to stand up to the TRC. P W refuses to participate. The TRC is also depicted as a ‘biegbank” or confessional and the Archibishop’s participation as nothing less than an inquisition.
In 1997 the TRC holds a special hearing into the Media, comprising four sessions in Johannesburg, (15 – 17 Sept 1997). The Afrikaans press declines to make a submission to the Commission. Instead, it provides the Commission with a copy of Oor Grense Heen, the official history of Nasionale Pers (Naspers).
Volume 4 of the Final TRC report (pg 180) observes: “The history concedes that Die Burger, for instance, promoted Verwoerd’s ideals of bantustans from an early stage and that, after Sharpville, the same newspaper advised that all positive aspects be speeded up. Occasionally,doubts about apartheid do surface but, in the main, the book reflects a total lack of concern for the company’s support of the racist system”
In the TRC investigation into the role of the Afrikaner Press under apartheid, Prof Arrie de Beer appears in his personal capacity as “a former full-time and part-time journalist in the Afrikaans Press” and as a university media lecturer and media researcher (session 4).
Some extracts from his testimony which are useful:
“There are many pseudo-legalistic and particularly sarcastically spiteful arguments in the Afrikaans media and elsewhere, why people or institutions should not appear before the TRC. These are almost as cynically brutal as the friendly open faces of the people who testified in the Vlakplaas and Hani cases as the perpetrators of these deeds, where they chose their words with great circumspection to condone the deeds before the TV and the public.” Prof de Beer.
“The one point of view which is maintained in the Afrikaans Press, is that everything that could be said about this matter had already been said in the Afrikaans language Press, and that adequate writing had taken place on this matter. This is a question which everybody has to reply to for himself. But I am not convinced that everything which the Afrikaner Press did during the apartheid years, collectively or individually, had been adequately answered.” Prof de Beer
“If one looks at the collective issue; whether the Afrikaner Press collectively had been keeping mum for too long about [crimes under apartheid], it is a fact in the heyday of apartheid years, at least three Afrikaans papers existed which were official mouthpieces of the NP, that many people of the NP were involved in the Press groups in leading positions and exercised their effect very carefully, and they criticised many people for points of view which are now commonly
accepted by the Afrikaans Press as facts of life.” Prof de Beer
In the TRC final report, Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu asks a pertinent question with regard to the failure of Naspers to make a full and proper submission: “Is silence from that quarter to be construed as consent, conceding that it was a sycophantic handmaiden of the apartheid government?”
However, after the hearing the Commission receives some 150 affidavits from individual Afrikaans-speaking journalists :– “These acknowledged the important role of the Commission and expressed disappointment at the Naspers decision not to appear.”
“They believed that the Afrikaans press had been an integral part of the structure that had kept apartheid in place, particularly in the way Afrikaans papers had lent their support to the NP during elections. The submissions maintained that, although the papers may not have been directly involved in violations, they should accept moral responsibility for what happened because they had helped support the system in which gross human rights violations occurred.”
“They said that “many Afrikaans journalists were deaf and blind to the political aspirations and sufferings of black fellow South Africans” and did not inform their readers about the injustices of apartheid. When knowledge about gross human rights violations became public, the journalists felt they had too readily accepted the denials and disingenuous explanations of the NP. Those who made submissions also sought forgiveness for their lack of action and committed themselves to ensuring that history would not repeat itself.”
According to the TRC final report, “Professor Ari de Beer echoed the general tone of these submissions. He said he had felt compelled to approach the Commission because of the revelations at earlier Commission hearings, particularly those of Vlakplaas. Professor de Beer felt that he and many other “God-fearing” Afrikaners could not accept personal responsibility for specific gross human rights violations. Nevertheless, he did feel that there should be an acceptance of individual and collective responsibility for those violations committed under the ideological veil of apartheid, in the name of the Christian religion and Afrikanerdom. He expressed regret for keeping quiet about apartheid when he knew he should have actively protested against it. He challenged those who claimed that the Afrikaans press had nothing to answer for.”
The Afrikaner Press is resoundingly condemned in the TRC final report for its direct support and involvement in the apartheid regime and is labeled as nothing more than an “extension and willing propaganda organ of apartheid.”
“By not reporting honestly on the human rights abuses of the NP government, the Afrikaans press as a whole stands condemned for promoting the superiority of whites and displaying an indifference to the sufferings of people of colour. Despite a limited number of individuals who rejected the system, and despite examples of resistance to the policy of slavish reporting on government and race related issues, exceptions to the long history of actively promoting the former state and its policies were minor ones.” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Propaganda policy within Naspers after the TRC findings, continues. The general antipathy is expressed in the following statement: “We must neither deny nor accept responsibility for apartheid”. A Naspers journalist expresses the view that since the company history under apartheid is public record there is no need to make a submission, and business continues as usual.
In 1997, shortly after the hearings, MIH Ltd. creates a highly successful internet service provider, M-Web Holdings, which because of its market capitalization and access to the local loop via government contacts within the ANC-NP alliance is able to undercut and drown out the competition.
Naspers merges its existing private education activities such as City Varsity and Damelyn College to form Educor Holdings Limited — “one of the leading private education providers in South Africa”. During the same year, Naspers re-organises and brands its local print media business as its “Media24” division. The original company started by JB Hertzog is reorganised into a holding company with five subsidiaries: MIH Holdings, MWEB, Media24, Nasboek and Educor.
1999 — Former UWC vice-chancellor and director in the president’s office, Jakes Gerwel is appointed to the Media24 board. His close association with the cabinet of Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, plays a key role in whitewashing the companies egregious history by recasting Naspers’ Media24 division as a “blameless and transforming entity.”
After 2000, Naspers rapidly expands its operations around the globe with a series of acquisitions, mergers and complex listings on various stock markets and international exchanges Some of the more notable deals are listed below.
In May 2001, Naspers acquires a 46.5% interest in Tencent Holdings Limited, the operator of an instant messaging platform in China called QQ, which subsequently develops into the “leading business of its kind in China”.
In a quest to further expand its business in China, the company acquires a 9.9% interest in the Beijing Media Corporation, the publisher of various newspapers such as Beijing Youth Daily and print-related materials, which include advertising.
In 2002 the First edition of Daily Sun is published.
MIH Holdings and MIHL become two wholly-owned subsidiaries of Naspers through a series of highly secretive listings/delistings and complex share schemes on the JSE, Nasdaq and elsewhere.
Naspers creates a secondary listing on Nasdaq.
In subsequent company reports and especially the groups annual South African report, Media24 seeks to portray itself as a “modern, forward looking company which has transformed”.
Yet the company pursues aggressive litigation against competitors using the numeral 24. Entrepreneur Christopher Riley is warned to stop using Properties24.co.za as his business’ website address. Lengthy litigation ensues.
In February 2005, Naspers acquires the South African internet interests of service provider Tiscali. On 31 March of the same year, Naspers prepares for a limited unbundling of its South African operation.
In June 2005, the Supreme Court of Appeal hands down its verdict in a sexual harassment case brought by Sonja Grobler against the company in 2003. The court finds that the company has a duty to protect the trainee manager from harassment.
Naspers partner, Beijing Media Corporation Ltd is under investigation for alleged corruption,and trading of its shares on Hong Kong stock exchange is suspended. The Beijing municipal government launches a high-level investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption at the company
The 2006 Media24 annual report cynically refers to the group’s “chain of integrity”. In submissions made before South Africa’s Labour court with regard to a case of discrimination filed at the CCMA the same year, community journalist David Robert Lewis makes the following observation — “considering what we have been told by the TRC and what we know now, this “chain of integrity” is in all reality a “chain of shame.”
Lewis is fired for writing an article about a local Jazz musician and attending a mixed-race venue on a Friday night. The case is now in its fourth year
Print media, book publishing and private education assets are consolidated in the “Media24 division” apparently “in order to simplify the group’s relatively complex structure” The result is the creation of a parallel entity which allows Black Empowerment Groups Welkom Yizani to buy a 15% stake in the Naspers subsidiary “Media24” (a total of 14,6-million shares), while Phuthuma Nathi buys a 15% stake in pay-TV operator “MultiChoice SA” (about 45-million shares)”. These share schemes are nothing less than dilutions of the company’s local subsidiaries in South Africa and do not affect the holding company or its overseas operations in any way.
The limited unbundling appears to silence some of its critics, despite both divisions remaining firmly under Naspers control.
In May 2006, Naspers acquires, for US$ 422 million, a 30% interest in the Brazilian media group Editora Abril, publishers of dozens of titles the most important of which being Revista Veja.
A new local entity is set up via a complex share-holding scheme nicknamed “Channel Life” in which Sanlam becomes the effective holding company of Naspers in South Africa. Various ANC oligarchs and party tycoons are appointed to positions in the new holding entity, among them Maria Ramos and Vallie Moosa. They join fellow Broederbonders, who since 1993 reconstitute themselves as part of the elite international Bilderburger group.
Media24 threatens to gag Lewis after the Alternative Media Forum publishes a pamphlet critical of newsroom policy. The Freedom of Expression Institute releases a statement condemning the move.
In January 2007, Naspers acquires a 30% interest in popular mobile chat platform Mxit. In February Jane Duncan refers to the gagging attempt as a threat to freedom of speech in an article published by Business Day.
Also in 2007, Noseweek publishes articles critical of Naspers division Educor. In “Degree of Deception” and “Diploma Circus” the magazine questions “Dodgy practices, plagiarism and cover-ups with the help of political influence”, and whether journalism degrees from Educor amount to anything more than brainwashing.
The Magazine Publishers Association of South Africa (MPASA) strongly condemns a Media24 circulation fraud which is uncovered involving the company’s reporting of circulation figures. Several Media24 employees face disciplinary action and potential criminal charges over the “deliberate manipulation” of circulation figures at five Touchline Media titles and seven Women’s Magazine Division titles which fall under the Media24 division. Advertisers demand a refund.
Lewis is jailed for complaining about the failure of local press coverage of the discrimination case, but the “assault by words” case is thrown out of court.
Naspers acquires a 30% interest in a Russian instant messaging service for desktop PCs and mobiles. In November 2007 the company acquires a further 2.6% of Mail.ru.
In October 2007, Naspers acquires Gadu-Gadu, a listed Polish instant messaging business with 8 million registered accounts.
In March 2008, Kobus Faasen objects to the use of the term “bushman” by Die Burger to describe people of mixed race. He loses his case after South Africa’s legal system upholds the apartheid-era system of race classification.
Naspers acquires Tradus (listed on the London Stock Exchange), which provides an online auction platform and internet portals in Eastern Europe. The company also owns Allegro.pl, which is considered the leading online auction site in Poland.
In August 2008, Naspers acquires a 25% stake in mobile media company BuzzCity through MIH, which is now considered Naspers’ “investment arm”. BuzzCity network is made up of publishers worldwide and BuzzCity’s own mobile media properties, which include the myGamma social networking platform which is aimed at regions with low fixed-line internet penetration.
Media24 attempts to sue photographer Geof Kirby for defamation after he questions the legality of the company’s reliance on dubious freelance contracts in particular its syndication without permission of content under South Africa’s apartheid-era Copyright Law which grants publishers first rights over written material but not over photographic images.
A gay protest rally is held against Media24 after columnist John Qwelane’s homophobic equation of gay sex with bestiality in the Sunday Sun.
In September 2009, Naspers acquires a 91% interest in BuscaPé, provider of comparison shopping systems for more than 100 portals and Web sites in Latin America, including Microsoft, Globo and Abril.
2010 The Bilderburger Group, which includes Naspers officials meets in Spain to discuss control of the world financial institutions.