THIS week saw apartheid media firm, Naspers in the news with a fresh scandal, large enough to top any previous peccadillo. The sheer amount of opinion pieces generated by South Africa’s media, and the scale and tone of the inquiry into the press is quite impressive. It marks a turning point insofar as a shady history of decades long immunity from criticism is concerned.
At first, the opposition Democratic Alliance, once staunch allies of the firm, but now in a marriage of convenience with the EFF, sought to buttress growing metro and provincial leadership by exposing what appears to be another influence peddling scandal.
The story was quickly picked up by technology and business sites, Business Tech “R100 million influence” MyBroadband “diabolical and secret R550 million” and Business Live “sabc greasing”, showing some disparity in the figures and eliciting Hlaudi counterspin from IOL and a series of Alec Hogg advertorials on Moneyweb “reports malicious” “Naspers not concerned” and also Business Live “not involved”
That Multichoice is involved in a number of corrupt political deals harks back to the founding of the pay channel company under Naspers director PW Botha. The story is not unique so far as this outlet is concerned.
The company simply moved from state capture under the National Party, to state capture under the ANC. All documented here. Massive pay-offs to those in power with the ability to make decisions, appears to have been the norm. Significant too, are the latest attempts by Naspers subsidiary Media24, itself involved in a variety of scandals, to dodge the broader implications of its boardroom being interwoven with a “corrupt nexus” involving Multichoice, to use former editor of the Weekly Mail and adjunct professor of journalism Anton Harber’s term.
Harber who recently moved from his academic post to eTV, an entity itself involved with Multichoice (via Remgro and Kagiso), a little out of character but unsurprisingly given his recent tenure, appears to have equivocated on the issue by writing what can only be termed a Daily Maverick fluff piece in defence of Naspers, urging the company to face up to the charges while painting a picture of an apartheid firm which miraculously transformed itself.
The piece is unfortunately devoid of facts and appears to ignore my own case against the company, and thus the belated apology issued by CEO Esmerie Weideman. Advertising agency executive Deon Wiggett wasn’t having any of this. The founder and creative director of Fairly Famous, “a progressive advertising agency” didn’t buy the spin doctoring and produced what can be called the best roasting of Koos Bekker in the press yet.
The Naspers board issued a statement, proclaiming their 80% owned child to be autonomous, with their shared directors ring-fenced on paper by the law, while major Naspers shareholder Sanlam issued a similar denial of responsiblity. Bob van Dijk’s “its not our problem” defence in this regard can only be described as bizarre.
US law firm Pomerantz announces it is investigating Naspers on behalf of Paypal investors, for securities fraud.
KOOS BEKKER is a very rich South African. He effectively controls a massive portion of South African news and media. In many ways, he can be considered the Rupert Murdoch of Africa. He has a net worth of roughly $1.6 billion and is the chairman of Naspers, which controls or owns outlets such as the South African Huffington Post.
Rupert Murdoch is an apt comparison; he’s not the only billionaire who has a huge stake in journalism. The owners also aren’t exclusively in news media, and to many, their news outlets are a side project, a way to project power or simply something to have (like a car or an extra mansion).
Naspers and Ties to Censorship
Corporations and the extremely wealthy, as a general rule, do not care much about censorship. In fact, the only thing most of them will oppose is a lack of profits. For example, Naspers was complicit in the apartheid regime, and the Afrikaans press was used to keep the oppressive regime in place. They’ve apologized for their actions, but this only occurred far after apartheid turned out to be the losing side. In other words: when it was profitable and politically expedient to do so.
Naspers, having many interests that get in the way of the truth and holding ties to many companies and countries that can prove to be a competing influence (as opposed to the public good), is the perfect example of this.
To go into more detail, Naspers owns Media24, a media group that states it’s interested in freedom of the press and other media freedoms. Yet that comes into conflict with the fact that Naspers’ largest stake is in Tencent, a Chinese tech and social media company who enforces social media censorship by the Chinese government.
This raises a major concern: Do Naspers’ Chinese ties and Koos Becker’s business interests compromise the integrity of South African news? It would be easy for such a company to keep a few unfavorable stories quiet.
Even just fifty years ago it would be considered possible for a new startup, with some capital and resolve, to break into the news and media business and hope to succeed.
Now, given the equipment that is needed and the poor returns in general of the newspaper business (or the entire news industry), along with the fast-paced nature of online news, journalism is a rich man’s game, and that isn’t a good thing. In America, for example, 90 percent of their media is controlled by six companies. South Africa’s situation is hardly different.
These barriers to entry remove variety from the press, eliminating competition and lowering the standards of news for people. People will either get compromised or poorly-formed journalism or nothing at all. Unfortunately, there are few examples showing there’s a better way.
Voices Get Silenced
If the press isn’t free from corporate interests, it’s hardly different from government control. It’s merely serving a different entity with different priorities. Larger entities tied to power won’t report on threats to that power to avoid giving them their justified attention and public interest. When was the last time you heard about the Shack Dweller’s movement and their protests on a major station?
Individual voices and good journalists also get regularly silenced when they try to make the difference. Desmond Cole and the Toronto Star is merely one example of this outside of South Africa. Others accuse the media, including News24, of not showing good news whatsoever and inciting violence amongst the people.
People Fighting Back
The situation looks grim, but people can and will fight back against the oligarchic control of information perfectly encapsulated by Naspers’ actions. Billionaires, try as they might, do not have control of reality.
Citizen journalism has become a trend with the advent of social media and information technology. A video at a scene cannot be so easily denied as false, and a trending topic or a viral post cannot be so easily ignored by the media elites if they want to keep credibility with the public. While it’s not perfect and certainly does not meet the standards of independent professionals, its mere existence is a threat to corporate control and a step forward.
Other people continue to expose the truth while hiding from the limelight (and the wrath of those companies). People will cover their tracks and use tools such as online proxies to stay anonymous as they bring us the truth about conglomerates, from inside or without. Without people like this willing to fight back, there’s no telling what the state of the news media would be today.
This problem will not go away on its own, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. People need to know what is happening and how the billionaires are controlling them to feel the anger to fight back. There are more protagonists out there besides Naspers, and even if one person is taken out of the news arena, more will appear, blocking genuine change in the way things are done or avoiding a viable alternative. There is a chance to change the flow of information, and South Africans can’t afford to miss out.
Do you happen to know anything else about Naspers or have a story you would like to share? Are you concerned about the growing consolidations of private media and the news? What else do you think they’re hiding? Please leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts.
Compare to Pre-Tiso Blackstar era chart here
IN AN INTERVIEW published by Business Day/Financial Mail and written up by Carlos Amato, aptly entitled:’Johann Rupert on being cast as the poster boy of ‘white monopoly capital‘ the financier and inheritor of apartheid billions, appears anxious to recast himself as a key member of the anti-apartheid struggle.
Unfortunately the facts do not support the Rupert version of history.
The CEO of Remgro and a holding company active in SA media, already implicated in extensive apartheid denial — alongside the creation of alternative facts — is recorded as saying: “Remember that the National Party shut down Remgro’s import permits for 10 months in 1988. And I was threatened by Magnus Malan with his hit squads. He said I was costing them votes because a number of us were speaking out against the NP. So what’s happening now is nothing new. Then it was because I was against apartheid, now it’s because I’m against state capture or cronyism”
Wrong, Mr Rupert, that would make you, a businessman, a central member of the anti-apartheid movement. There is no record that the Ruperts were ever vocal in their apparent opposition to the inhumanity of apartheid. None of the explanations regarding Johann’s father, Anton leaving the Broederbond for instance, tackle the central problem of what he was doing there in the first place.
There is no mention in Anton Rupert’s 2005 biography of a supposed landmark event in his life, involving PW Botha’s rubicon speech. If Botha had “reaffirmed his rejection of apartheid” as his speech writers would have it, it certainly never figured loudly in the writing of historians.
Maano Ramutsindela writing in a book on transfrontier conservation parks, examining the legacy of the Rupert family and the areas thus administered by the apartheid regime, states: “Given that enemies of the apartheid state of all backgrounds were harassed, hunted down, maimed and killed, the media was at pains to explain why the agencies of the apartheid state did not harm Rupert as it did others, including anti-apartheid activists from the Afrikaner community. The explanation offered is that Rupert did not oppose apartheid loudly, because he wanted to protect his business interests (Die Burger 2006)”
It may well be that the Ruperts and their company were pressured by the cabinet of the late PW Botha, in the inevitable powerplay between verligte (liberal) and verkrampte (conservative) Afrikaners during the closing stages of the transition and at the end of the successive states of emergency, but to say:
“I was threatened by Magnus Malan with his hit squads” and because “I was against apartheid” is a blatant fabrication and outright lie, one which strips the victims and survivors of the apartheid system of human agency.
The issue of whether or not there was ever a problem with Remgro’s import permits is risible considering the firm was itself, a sanctions buster, one which enabled the government of the day to withstand the considerable boycott and disinvestments campaign being waged by those on the other side of the fence.
Denying or revising the instrumentality of apartheid should be a punishable offense.
At best it is a variation of the tired theme: “I was merely following orders, with a gun to my head under martial law.” A defense resoundingly rejected under the Nuremberg principles and international statutes.
The chicanery by the heir to the Rupert fortune, ignores the reality that indeed many activists, including myself, suffered under the threats issued on a daily basis by Malan, Viljoen, Coetzee et al, and thus the de facto military junta.
Rupert’s latest claim ignores the pivotal role played by his father Anton, in the creation of the apartheid state, the industrialisation of South Africa under the auspice of the National Party and the significant enrichment of the Afrikaner people, at the expense of fellow black South Africans.
It was the Catholic Bishop’s Conference which funded struggle titles, such as South Press and New Nation, not Remgro.
Whilst at South Press, an exposé of Malan’s trophy-hunting operations in Angola brought the ire of the authorities. I was subject to a campaign of dirty tricks which eventually lead to the demise of the title. Unlike Rupert junior who hid his private views behind the officialdom of apartheid’s boardrooms, I had no such insider junket.
Rupert’s assertions must therefore be rejected.
SEE: 1950-1990 Signs of Apartheid What South Africans had to look at every day for four decades. by Amanda Uren on Mashable’s Retronaut
 Mr David Robert Lewis (“applicant”) seeks leave to appeal the Ruling of the Ombudsman dated 5 February 2016 dismissing applicant’s complaints against Independent Newspapers (“respondent”).
 The complaints followed two articles, the second being a follow-up or a continuation, of the first. The stories were reporting the views of one Plum who had been in Hitler’s army during the Second World War. The applicant saw the articles as a “serialisation of a self-confessed member of the Hitler Youth”. The applicant is a member of the Jewish Community living in the country. He says the serialisation of Plum’s own experiences reduces the Jews and Jewish Community to mere “objects of history”, thereby infringing their dignity. He also says that Plum is cast as “a mere accessory, an innocent victim caught up in historical events … beyond his control”, even though he had not objected to the events (the Holocaust and torture of Jews).
 The applicant’s complaints were accurately captured in the Ombudsman’s Ruling:
“He says that these stories discriminated against him, since they represented:
· an extraordinary serialisation of a self-confessed member of the Hitler Youth …;
· a reiteration of the philosophy of Nazidom and its antecedents in German philosophy…..
· a failure to moderate, publish, consult and include the narrative of Jews, … …
· inappropriate content considering world events and especially the events of 13 November 2015; and
· incitement of hatred against the Jewish community and other cultural, linguistic and religious communities … …
Lewis adds that the journalist did not get comment from the Jewish community.”
 The respondent contended that the articles were not written to portray Plum in a positive light but to present a different view of the events of the war; from the perspective of a 11 year old, to 17; did not seek to romanticise or justify the Holocaust but to vent out the view of those German people forced to be part of the Nazi regime. Plum’s views were critical of the Nazi regime; his views were put in inverted commas as his own and that the interview with him was set up 5 days before the Paris massacre (an event applicant referred to apparently to show lack of sensitivity). Applicant, who submitted two lengthy affidavits, also complained that Plum denigrated the Jewish Community by saying that “God is not on the side of the Jews, because Hitler killed them all” (more about this later) and by insinuating that they are not God’s chosen people. Respondent argued that the above phrase is commonly used in both Jewish and Christian publications.
 In his application for leave to appeal, the applicant argues that the Ombudsman has been wrong in his analysis of the matter; he attacks the Ruling in many respects. On the other hand, the respondent supports the Ruling and the reasons behind it. I have read the Ruling and its analysis of the complaints carefully. I do not find fault with it. I need not repeat what the Ombudsman has said. Here lies the fundamental difference between the applicant on the one hand, and the respondent and the Ombudsman on the other: applicant’s complaints are based on his own interpretation of the articles as well as his own apparently good knowledge of the history about the Second World War and the Holocaust. They are not based on what actually appears in the articles. For example, he says his“objection is in reference to the sentiment and nostalgic manner in which the subject of the articles (Mr Plum) views his training, education and interaction (as a teenager soldier).” The applicant infers nostalgia, whereas what Mr Plum said could equally be interpreted as a demonstration of genuinely inspired desire to reveal to all how the Nazi’s went so far as to use children like him. One would therefore need a huge jump to come to the kind of inference the applicant makes from the articles. There is therefore much to be said for respondent’s argument that the applicant “has thus exaggerated the effect of the articles on the ordinary reader”. Only a reader like the applicant with a deep knowledge of the relevant history can place onto the articles the kind of interpretation he does; but not an average reader, for whom the articles were meant. The interpretation applicant places on Plum’s statement that God does not like Jews because He let Hitler kill them, does not amount to denigration of the Jews; it is the kind of lament a bereaved parent would make, to ask God, “if you loved me, why did you let my child die!” The things applicant is complaining about, are really not in the articles, but are a product of his own interpretation, based on his special knowledge of the relevant history. As the Ombudsman says, there is for example no reference in the articles to Baerenfaenger, or other issues alluded to by the applicant. The articles were a presentation of Mr Plum’s views, which were unique; moreover, they were presented as his own and not of the respondent. I too do not agree with applicant’s interpretation of the texts and his conclusions.
 For the above reasons as well as those given by the Ombudsman, I am of the view that the applicant has no reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Committee of the Press Council. The application is therefore turned down.
Dated this 28th day of March 2016
Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel
ED NOTE: The actual complaint makes a distinction between those Jews who believe in the Covenant and those who do not. Although the complainant, a non-Zionist, does not himself accept the central narrative surrounding the Burning Bush, he supports the rights of those who do. Ngoepe’s decision unfortunately redacts the submission and does not record this important distinction.
ED NOTE: The second article on Plum clearly refers to Baerenfaenger and also close ties to Adolf Hitler alongside a narrative demonstrating Plum’s prowess or lack thereof with a rifle. The statement is inaccurate to say the least and grounds for inferring bias.
The complainants submissions to the Ombudsman and Judge Ngoepe are available below.
Rebuttal of INM Appeal Submission
HOW the memory plays tricks. Not so long ago, Terry Bell, the self-styled labour correspondent who started out at the Independent Group, where he failed to cover any labour disputes involving his bosses, was praising the political dispensation.
Now that he has found a home at Naspers subsidiary Media24, where he once again fails to cover any cases involving his bosses, Bell has taken to writing obscure tracts on state capture and ‘Die Broederbond’.
Perhaps a sign that Bell still has some spine left and could be coming round to Medialternatives’ own exposé of the cartel that is key to understanding state capture of the media and vice versa? (See post here and here)
We certainly hope so.
In a piece published on Bell’s website and ironically also carried by News24, Bell writes about an inquiry during the Verwoerd period, to investigate secretive societies such as the “Afrikaner Broederbond (AB), the Freemasons and the Sons of England”.
In particular he writes about the “exposes (sic) by the brilliant investigative reporter, Charles Bloomberg that revealed that the secretive AB cabal was making the real decisions about the future of the country; that parliament was merely being used as a rubber stamp.”
The inquiry makes an interesting analogy: “Unlike the present allegations of attempts to capture existing state machinery, the first state capture, by the AB, came about through the steady infiltration of leading sections of the Afrikaner nationalist establishment. Over nearly 30 years, leading Afrikaner politicians, academics, religious leaders and educationalists, were recruited to the AB with the object of eventually seizing control of the state and all aspects of society.”
If this doesn’t get your goat, then Bell’s relating of the Teljoy saga (really a prequel to the later Naspers-Multichoice debacle under the regime of PW Botha) definitely gets our blessing, as a piece of apartheid controversy crucial to understanding media today.
“A number of powerful AB members had financial stakes in an embryonic television hire company, Teljoy. This company became South Africa’s leading television and VCR rental organisation with significant interests in cellular telephony. Political modernity had again found its justification in the marketplace.”
“The charade, which then followed, was a classic of its kind. John Vorster appointed an official commission of inquiry into whether and when South Africa should introduce television. The commission was chaired by Broeder 787, Piet Meyer, who was simultaneously head of the national broadcaster, the SABC and of the AB. Eight of the other 11 members of the commission were also AB members while a ninth was a National Party senator. But the 12 commission members merely constituted the public face of the process. As soon as the inquiry was announced, the Broederbond notified its cells and canvassed the opinions that would really matter.”