Corporations are supposed to be legal entities which can sue and be sued. Unfortunately there are those who believe that human beings should be subordinated to the rights of corporations and in fact, restricted from possessing such rights (guaranteed by the constitution) which are then shifted away from the domain of private law into the domain of commercial law.
Where does labour law fit into the picture? Surprising though this may sound, corporations such as Media24 continue to deploy arguments which run contrary to the spirit of the constitution. In fact the entire Labour Relations Act and the relevant clauses guaranteeing every citizen Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Religion, no longer appear to apply when it comes to the media.
Media24 have already argued, for example, that a 7 day work week is an “inherent requirement of the job,” that their interference in my private life is “provided for under contract” and that “they should be absolved of any wrongdoing” either for their participation in the Apartheid system or for their continued discrimination against struggle journalists, including Jews. Needless to say, the company has yet to supply a /bone fide/ contract of employment and has attempted to defraud the court by claiming a document to which my signature is attached to the last page, is a valid contract of employment.
Media24 is a company with an egregious history. It failed to make a submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Despite Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu’s conclusion that “the Afrikaner press would lose their case by default,” and the likely consequences of non-participation would jeopardise any future defenses or claims of amnesty, Naspers/Media24 ignored this advice and pursued a path of non-cooperation, even going so far as to publish cartoons depicting the commission in an extremely negative light.
Now we see the result of the charade in which the only persons with any rights left in South Africa are “unnatural persons”. A circus in which “socialism for the few” and “capitalism for the privileged” are the buzz phrases which spring to mind. Is South Africa’s fragile democracy about to run aground because of the failure of the handmaidens of the media industry to take responsibility? The chief protagonists in this battle are the captains of racism and industry – Maria Ramos, Boetie van Zyl, Vallie Moosa and their ilk, who sit on the same board of directors that control the Media24/DSTV lobotomising machine, and who are still playing the old game of segregationist politics.
If the recent saga of the Khulumani Victims of Apartheid is anything to go by, and the pain and suffering of those who have been denied justice by the South African system is a gauge, then we are all in for an interesting legal battle. If it can be said that a corporation lacks the qualities of a moral agent, i.e it has no moral conscience, then a company should not be allowed to seek absolution in the same way a Christian might seek to be absolved of sin from a priest.
The Labour Relations Act should not be a means whereby perpetrators of crimes against humanity are given amnesty and a “second chance” in order to continue engaging in forced labour and acts of economic terrorism against the working class, destroying wages and creating servitude that turns us all into robotic slaves. Yet Media24 have sought to have their crimes absolved via trickery, deceit, and slight of hand.
Corporations want to have their cake and eat it. They want all the rights that human beings possess but with none of the responsibilities. They want the freedom of capitalism but the protection of socialism. They want rights for themselves but no rights for ordinary citizens. It is time to take a stand against corporate capitalism and Media24 brainwashing.
In 2006 when I was frogmarched out of a Media24 newsroom for complaining about the rejection of a “controversial” article about the music industry. There were no objections from any of my colleagues. The complaint before the Labour Court details the manner in which I was degraded and abused by Media24 managers who surprise, surprise, no longer work at the company.
When Media24 attempted to gag me from speaking out about racism and racial profiling at the company I was forced to resort to the moral agency argument. “Corporations cannot claim defamation or libel because their legal /personae/ is limited, i.e their personality as not a human personality but a brand which does not have “feelings” or “psychological integrity” in the same way a human being does. The Freedom of Expression Institute released a newsbrief condemning the company and the newstory was ignored by the local press but covered in Canada.
Now we see a former cabinet minister Kader Asmal claiming that “Moral condemnation can only be imposed on natural persons, and corporations should be absolved of responsibility or exempt from wrongdoing.” Surely there is a vicarious connection to this story?
As a South African with a history in the struggle press, I was mislead like so many fellow South Africans, by the saccharine-coated promises made by Media24 and a sycophantic press which made a big fuss about national reconciliation without bothering to check the facts. Now we see the result of a blanket amnesty — the destruction of history and a nation which is doomed to repeat its past. Corporations should rather be resoundingly chastised for their participation in the apartheid regime and should not be absolved like natural persons. Period. It is minister Asmal who deserves to be condemned.
There is a hearing on the 20 & 21st of January, Labour Court, Twinell Hs, Loop Street, Cape Town