Iqbal Survé misrepresents Ombud findings, spins external review, only to have false decuplets story rejected by Public Protector #babygate

IN A RECENT interview with JJ Tabane, IOL chairman Iqbal Survé claimed that his company had been cleared by its own internal Ombudsperson. In essence Piet Rampedi’s Decuplets story was both misleading and true at the same time, necessitating a man-hunt for 10 non-existent babies and their missing birth records — obviously never born, but somehow also trafficked, exiting the scene like a well-known religious icon on a flying horse.

The outlandish claims are not only a misrepresentation and equivocation in the face of damming evidence to the contrary, but fly in the face of both an external finding by Advocate Michael Donen, and now the Public Protector.

It was Yogas Nair, Independent Media’s own press ombud, who first issued a pronouncement that Rampedi had ‘erred in his eagerness and failed to follow standard company procedure.’ The story was thus a hoax, necessitating a retraction and apology to readers and the world, all suckered by what had been trumpeted as an ‘IOL exclusive’

The internal decision was practically reiterated by an external review by Advocate Michael Donen, whose report said the publication of the story was both “reckless”, and a breach of Independent Media’s code of ethics.

“He had it in the headline and first sentence that 10 babies were born when all he had was a report by the father. He had a duty to find corroborative evidence,” Donen explained.

Donen’s findings were noted by SANEF as was the outcome that IOL had published ‘an article stating as fact that a woman had given birth to ten babies, without any evidence’.

The external review thus recommended disciplinary action be taken against Piet Rampedi, of which very little has been heard in the aftermath, in the effort to hush-hush the outcome.

Given the latest report confirming that the media claims that a ‘Tembisa 10’ mother gave birth to decuplets in June 2021 at Steve Biko Hospital were “unsubstantiated”, one would expect at very least a public retraction from Rampedi followed by an unequivocal apology to its readers from the company and especially those journalists the group has chosen to slander, for simply exposing the hoax.

Instead, Survé has chosen to walk the path of evasion, fabrication and outright fantasy. One whopper told after the next. Take the chairman’s response to a simple question put during the Tabane interview — of the decuplet’s story, where did it end? Survé responds:

Our own Press Ombudsman found against the editor Piet Rampedi, which shows you that our Press Ombudsman system works, that it was very critical of Piet Rampedi. It was critical of Piet Rampedi not for the fact whether or not there were decuplets or not. It was critical because of the way he reported it and because he had not verified certain information. However as a result of the seriousness of that matter, what I then did was appoint one of the top retired human rights advocates in the country … Adv Michael Donen

Survé then claims that far from lacking any evidence to support the assertion, Donen instead “confirmed multiple births, and there was trafficking”.

At the time of writing this, Medialternatives had yet to receive comment from Donen.

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JJ Tabane cancels Anton Harber interview #Babygate

LAST WEEK JJ Tabane provided the owner of Independent Media, one Iqbal Survé, with airtime to tackle a column written by Anton Harber essentially calling for an advertising boycott of the group. The two have been at loggerheads since the publication of a now discredited multi-baby “decuplets” story by Piet Rampedi of the Pretoria News.

IOL have refused to retract, ignoring press statements issued by the Department of Health and also the would-be mother’s own family. The company then doubled-down on its ‘scoop’, claiming that an as yet unrecognised ‘world record for child births’, (see nonuplets below) had instead turned into a tragic story about child trafficking.

In short, according to Survé, the 10 babies ‘had been stolen’, presumably for ‘body parts’, necessitating a hunt for their whereabouts. The missing medical records, are now seemingly lost in the video editing room behind a dramatised series on Youtube, punted by the media outlet. The series is nothing more than an attempt to reframe the initial story, and has been condemned by SANEF, a national editors forum to which IOL are no longer active members.

Harber’s column in Business Day followed several critical columns including one on Operation Hlanza. Survé’ appears to have published his own responses: Does Anton Harber and his cohort suffer from media myopia and amnesia? and Anton Harber – the master of the art of deflection and protector of the golden cufflinks in which he essentially accuses Harber of being a ‘racist’, and also of being ‘compromised’ due to his position as “Caxton Chair of Journalism at Wits University”.

In the latest eNCA interview, which the Etv news channel refused to upload and is only available from Survé’s own Youtube channel, Survé’ can be seen accusing Harber of objecting to the appointment of a then ’26-year-old black editor at Cape Times’, after which he accuses the former editor of the Weekly Mail, of being simply a ‘conservative white liberal’ with an axe to grind, and thus Business Day and other news outlets are merely’ a bunch of liberals’ or worse, ‘conservatives’.

Upon being questioned as to whether “Rampedi had made a mistake” Survé responded by explaining at length the group’s ombudsman process, and claimed a legal practitioner appointed by the group was somehow an authority on the matter, Survé asserted inter alia, that IOL’s own ombudsman, apparently a senior advocate, had thus ‘cleared the company’ by issuing a finding that the decuplets had indeed been kidnapped. The chairman of IOL then makes much of his association with a philanthropic organisation geared towards children’s rights, before continuing his invective against the liberalism, of which he is also a beneficiary.

Survé seemed keen to avoid pursuing obvious questions relating to the Weekly Mail’s treatment of the late Winnie Mandela, and instead focuses on his own relationship to Mandela, despite public questions having been raised into the veracity of his own claims.

Harber in turn has accused JJ Tabane of pandering to Survé’s ‘scandalous accusations’. To date, there is no official statement from the news channel.

Yesterday, the public received news of “the world’s only nonuplets – nine babies born at the same time – which have safely returned home to Mali after spending the first 19 months of their lives in Morocco. The babies broke the Guinness World Record for the most children delivered in a single birth to survive.”

Conspiracy theorist Sizwe Dlamini is at it again

NO SOONER had ‘investigative reporter’ Sizwe Dlamini, of the Independent Group’s self-styled ‘falcons’ investigation team, erroneously claimed that he had exposed Branko Birkic’s Daily Maverick, for being, (wait for it), a ‘newspaper with subscribers’, the conspiracy theorist was railing against the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) for its backing of online site, Daily Friend.

Dlamini’s latest exercise in yellow journalism proceeds at the outset to laud IRR for being ‘guardians of liberal values in South Africa” before embarking on what could also be termed an ‘agit prop conspiracy piece’ attempting to discredit the conservative thinktank for being a ‘neo-liberal’ organisation funded by the US State Department.

You can read his earlier missive here.

Neither the common dreams article referred to by Dlamini nor another piece by the same key author Roscoe Palm mention IRR and the Daily Friend. Rather these pieces pillory the National Endowment for Democracy (NED and Open Society Foundation (OSF) and their alleged support of 24 news organizations within the country, including Mail and Guardian and the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.

It should be noted that the authors Palm and former Congress of the People, (Cope) organizer, Philip Dexter, are co-founders of the Pan African Institute for Socialism and cannot claim to be objective reporters.

amaBhungane have issued strong denials of any support from USAid and its Micah Reddy has taken “issue with a number of claims and suggestions made by the authors” calling the article a “demonstrable lie.”

Sam Sole of amaBhungane responds: “Although the article purports to be an analysis of a real phenomenon, it is actually an attempt to manufacture a moral panic without disclosing the origins of the debate or the involvement of one of the authors, Roscoe Palm.” You can read his full response here.

Journo Chris Roper is also outed as an alleged CIA funded-agent by Palm (any comment’s appreciated).

It would seem patronising to suggest as Palm and Philip Dexter do, that other organisations such as News24, which are amply funded due to their connections with former Nationalist Party oligarchs, and which have long since been exposed here for involvement in government kickbacks like the notorious MNet pay-tv deal, require any foreign aid, if at all. In fact the obvious failure to tackle my own revelations, and case, lead one to conclude there to be an obvious agenda flowing from the obfuscation and removal of the primary context of apartheid.

The links to the American State Department presented are tenuous at best and seem drafted to coincide with the recent visit by Secretary of State Athony Blinken amidst a fracus over Taiwan and Ukraine.

The NED association with Ronald Reagan’s purported covert operations against Nicaragua in the 1980s and thus by implication, the work of US intelligence agencies such as the CIA, are used by Palm and Dexter as broad brush strokes, harking back to the Cold War, and thus a convenient bogeyman with which to smear progressive and conservative media alike.

It is clear that both Dexter and Dlamini view anyone vaguely to the centre of the far-left as compromised. Critics of ultra-left factions trumpeting ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ and ‘Expropriation without Compensation’, are thus according to these self-appointed spokesmen for Socialism, nothing more than dangerous counter-Marxists. Committed capitalists, who if parties like the EFF were to attain power, might need to attend compulsory political re-education camps, or face involuntary psychiatric confinement, as do Cuba’s own dissidents.

One should again note the weird contradiction in logic displayed by Dlamini, for at once praising liberalism before engaging in a critique of neoliberalism, which in many respects could also be a criticism of government regulation and Keynesian economics, if only it weren’t a tired scholastic segue, one tediously proposing a fundamental reorganisation of society along Marxist-Leninist principles.

Independent Media is the daily news outlet which continues to stand by a thoroughly discredited multi-baby story, (babygate) and which has found itself in a battle to maintain its banking facilities, this after various banks deemed Executive Chairman Iqbal Surve, a ‘reputational risk’. Clearly a company out to get other media outlets with which it disagrees, and then calling foul when placed on the receiving end of serious criticism whose outcome is of no small consequence?

Next up: South Africans have unwittingly been watching American movies for decades. Better alert the press.

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Iqbal’s fake babies: Sir, you have egg on your face

THIS WEEK saw Dr Iqbal Survés attempt to recast himself as a wealthy philanthropist and friend of newborns everywhere fall flat amidst yet another infantile furore involving the Independent Group.

Survé and his organisation Survé Philanthropies appear to be the victim of an elaborate public relations stunt involving the handing over of a R1 million cheque in a well-orchestrated bogus bambino hoax backed up by none other than the Independent Group.

That Survés Sekunjalo Group are effectively the owners of the Independent Group should make no difference to how one views a startling case of falling victim to one’s own propaganda machine, and following years of sacrificing journalism standards to craft what can only be described as a private marketing network posing as news media.

What started out as an astonishing multi-toddler scoop by Piet Rampedi of the Pretoria News quickly disintegrated into mudslinging and recrimination, as INM CEO Takudzwa Hove (anyone heard of him?) stood by Rampedi’s story that Gosiame Sithole and Tebogo Tsotetsi had ‘become parents to a record-breaking ten babies born at a private Pretoria hospital.’

“The first red flag about the story was the sheer coincidence that it came a month after a Mali woman gave birth to nine babies,” wrote Mahlatse Mahlase of EWN, one of the first news outlets to debunk the story as an elaborate if fanciful con.

“Such pregnancies are exceedingly rare. Yet, shortly after that birth, a South African supposedly followed with 10. In fact, the interview by Independent was done the very month the Mali woman gave birth” she says.

As Jasmine Stone of 2OceansVibe opined: “The fact that it’s solely IOL with the inside scoop, and in particular, journalist Piet Rampedi (notorious for his role in the fake SARS ‘rogue unit’ stories from years back), only adds further intrigue.”

Yesterday the Health Department issued a striking rebuttal of INM’s claims of a government coverup, stating that their claims appear to be a ‘journalistic error’ since there is currently no evidence of the existence of the decuplets.

The family of the purported father of the babies, Tebogo Tsotetsi has also issued a statement denying their existence:

“The family has resolved and concluded that there are no decuplets born between Tebogo Tsotetsi and Gosiame Sithole, until proven otherwise and wishes to apologise for any inconvenience and embarrassment.”

Sekunjalo has another Jack Ma moment

THIS WEEK saw ABSA bank withdraw its support for Sekunjalo and Iqbal Survé, citing reputational damage without providing any details. Apparently the bank doesn’t have to supply evidence in court and may boot its clients willy-nilly — on the mere off chance that they represent a risk to shareholder’s profits.

If the attempts by some media critics to paint this as another example of the end of the Gupta years, stemming from the shenanigans at Ayo, seem a little odd given Sekunjalo’s balance sheet, then perhaps it has something to do with the proverbial Iqbal Survé Jack Ma moment. If you remember, Ma fell out of grace with the Chinese Communist Party in November last year, resulting in the cancellation of the Ant Group IPO.

Similarly, Survé’s Sagarmartha IPO failed after the PIC pulled the carpet citing lack of due diligence. If you managed to catch the tail-end of the saga, and last month’s presentation given to a special parliamentary portfolio committee, then you will realise that Survé didn’t take things laying down.

He appears to have spun-off the troublesome Independent Group’s assets into a special interest vehicle, the Independent Consortium, whilst saving both Premier Fishing and Loot.com, two highly cash-generative operations, that form part of his vast empire.

It doesn’t take much digging to find the cause of Absa’s butt-headed reaction, since Survé has been waging a tit-for-tat battle with other media groups, in particular Naspers, itself a mere pawn in a broader financial empire, whose ultimate source of control is the web of intrigue surrounding the Rupert family and Rupert Beleggings.

Since the Rupert’s were instrumental in the creation of Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (Absa), after their well-documented bail-out of the apartheid state and its banking sector during the 80s, which also saw the dynasty benefit from various so-called ‘life-boats’ floated by Chris Stals et al, and are consequently the main sponsors behind the ANC, their erstwhile banking partners might not be all that happy to have Sekunjalo as a client.

Look no further than the history of Volkskas on sahistory.org.za

The move comes as President Ramaphosa was lambasted by the NEC’s Dlamini-Zuma for his apparent proximity to Johann Rupert. Hypocrisy considering the party’s longstanding relationship with its former National Party allies.

In 2018 columnist Azad Essa claimed that the Independent Group cancelled his column immediately after he published a column distributed to a number of Independent Media newspapers critical of China’s mass internment of ethnic Uighurs.

The prospect of Sekunjalo being refused a business license under the current political dispensation in which the ruling party operates as if South Africa is, for all intents and purposes, a one party state, will no doubt come to haunt Survé.

Reports have emerged that Survé initially chose the China National Bank as an alternative to Absa, only to find that keeping ones money in an authoritarian regime, is well, not exactly Swiss banking.