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.
FIN24, the Naspers-Media24 financial news site has been found guilty on one count of copyright infringement.
The South Gauteng High Court found that Fin24 infringed the copyright of one Moneyweb article in 2013, after copying and republishing a substantial part of an original article, and was ordered to pay damages to Moneyweb.
Judge Daniel Berger did not find similar infringements in six other articles and ordered Moneyweb to pay 70% of Fin24’s costs.
These were the main findings in the copyright infringement case Moneyweb instituted in 2013 against Fin24, after Fin24 copied and republished content from various Moneyweb articles. Moneyweb argued that copyright was infringed in seven articles.
Damages in regard to the infringement have yet to be finalised.
You can read the rest of the Moneyweb side of the story here.
And the extraordinary article published by Fin24 claiming it isn’t guilty at all.
WHAT is more embarrassing than Kohler-Barnard tweeting about PW Botha?
SANEF and the Minister of Justice supporting the career of PW Botha at Naspers.
Both parties (Justice and Naspers) have acknowledged papers served in a case before the Equality Court EC19/2015. The case has been brought in terms of the Equality Act, to restore and preserve the TRC Final Report as evidence before the courts, in a suit following the trashing of the report by representatives of Naspers in 2010, which, in and of itself, is a form of unfair discrimination.
The TRC Report details Naspers’ gross violation of human rights of persons such as myself, during apartheid, but was rejected as evidence by Acting Judge Cheadle. The subsequent campaign of opposition to the outcome of the commission was also presented, and now forms part of a broader case of discrimination, flowing from the “repetition of errors” documented by the commission.
Kahanovitz SC previously hauled posts from Medialternatives into the courtroom, in order to demonstrate that, apparently I have a “vendetta against his client” and an ongoing campaign against apartheid, in search of the truth. He is now facing a disciplinary hearing before the Cape Bar Council because of his over-zealous interrogation of my Jewish identity, amongst other things.
In May 2010, Cheadle proceeded to deliver a judgement against me, in my absence, on the basis of my opposition to racism and apartheid. The criminal investigation into his affairs, in particular, a labour brokerage firm with strong ties to Naspers, is now pending a review before the NPS.
Here are links to the documents which have been lodged before the Equality Court
IN FOOTAGE supplied by News24, group manager Ishmet Davidson can be seen lying openly on camera.
Davidson falsely claims that Naspers offered an apology in 1996. The disputed fact, has been refuted by the both the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report.
Medialternatives is in possession of correspondence with the department’s TRC Unit showing clearly that the company did not participate in the commission.
In the video clip, Davidson says:
“It’s not the first time this question came up, should Naspers apologise or not, as a matter of fact it came up with the TRC hearings many years ago, would have been in 1996 or around there, to the best of my knowledge, Naspers did sort of offer some form of an apology, in particular the editors at the time which would have been more Media24 than Naspers.”
He then tells the victims and survivors of apartheid to “move on”
Davidson is the one who should rather “move on”, and get his facts straight, “sort of” since the group of journalists he refers to participated in the TRC in their private capacity.
Neither Naspers, nor Media24 participated in the commission, and no offer of an apology by the company to the victims and survivors of the apartheid system was ever made during this period. Instead the Group sent a copy of its corporate history ‘Oor Grense Heen’, with a letter explaining they did not feel any need to add to this text.
The document was not accepted by the commission.
It was not until the weekend announcement of 25 July 2015 that an apology of any substance was offered. A fact backed up by several news stories on the event, carried by IOL and international media, including Sibusiso Tshabalala writing in Quartz Africa
“When the prominent anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko, was killed in detention, it was Die Burger – one of Naspers’ oldest daily newspapers – which sided with the security police in an editorial, three days after Biko’s death.” writes Tshabalala.
“For many more deaths like Biko’s and hundreds of people who were held in detention, Naspers publications not only towed the Apartheid government’s line, but also began normalizing the ideology of racial segregation – justifying violence of South Africa’s Apartheid government.”
Several titles owned by the company, including Die Burger, have published articles and cartoons critical of the commission, which has been depicted as nothing more than a “biegbank” or confessional.
Naspers former director, PW Botha for example, has been depicted as the only person with any back-bone, able to stand up to the commission.
He refused to participate in the TRC and was instead subpoenaed, resulting in a series of legal drama’s around this precise point. Davidson is thus fraudulently introducing an amendment and revision to the Final Report, in contravention of the TRC Act, establishing the commission.
In further news, Khulumani, the support group for victims and survivors of the apartheid system, has welcomed the weekend’s statements by Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman, but says acknowledgement of responsibility is a first step and the work of the commission must continue.
THE IMPACT of a media cartel on a case adjudicated in the Labour Court of South Africa in 2010, by a director of the Resolve Group, partly owned by Remgro subsidiary Kagiso in a dispute in which Naspers subsidiary, Media24 were the respondents, was bound to present challenges. The least of which is the many deals which were being brokered between these entities during the course of proceedings.
The cartel includes Kagiso, Caxton, Remgro, Perskor and Naspers.
In order to appreciate how this was possible, one must first relate a bit of apartheid history.
In 1970 two pro-apartheid competitive Sunday newspapers, The Image (in Naspers ‘s possession) and Dawn (in Perskor’s possession), merged as Report to end the bitter struggle between the newspapers.
The combined paper’s first issue on 29 November 1970 appeared.
Thus Perskor, a media company started by HF Verwoerd, was gradually absorbed by Naspers.
The constant merging and spinoff of new entities, whilst maintaining shareholder control over the units, was to become a dominant theme of Naspers and its media cartel partners, who in turn sort to maintain Afrikaner privilege, in particular the theological basis for race classification and separate development.
Caxton, a major newsprint distributor and printer was no different. Its merger with Perskor, during July 1998, occurred shortly after acquiring CTP (Cape and Transvaal Printers) in 1995. This did not stop units and subsidiaries of these holding companies, from suing each other.
The competition commission recently heard evidence regarding issues to do with the collapse of Gold-Net News aka Gold Fields Reporter, a community newspaper in competition with Media24 “fighting brands”, in a case involving abuse of a dominant position in the industry.
The Competition Tribunal also granted Caxton and CTP Publishers and Printers Limited permission to participate in the hearing of a merger between Media 24 (Pty) Ltd, Paarl Media Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Paarl Coldset (Pty) Ltd. In the merger Media 24 intended to “purchase a 5% share in Paarl Media Holdings as well as a 12,63% share in Paarl Coldset.” The resulting entity has now been listed on the JSE as Novus.
Rupert’s “Bidco” stake
The sanctions-busting Rembrandt Group comprises Remgro, Richemont and Venfin, and includes a variety of equity investment vehicles such as Reinet Investments.
“Bidco” in turn, comprises RMB Investments, Remgro and Caxton directors Terry Moolman and Noel Coburn. It was involved in the recent buyout of ElementONE, a major Caxton shareholder.
Johann Rupert via Independent Online, said Remgro had an effective shareholding of less than 7 percent in Caxton. “These are shares that we acquired about 20 years ago when there was a huge fight between Naspers and Perskor.”1
Remgro has long held a 1,7% stake in Caxton, a legacy of the old Perskor Group.2
Caxton subsequently acquired Perskor and vice versa.
The resulting Remgro stake in the cartel which includes Kagiso, Caxton, Perskor, and Naspers, represents a serious concentration of media assets amongst a few Afrikaner businessmen.
The impact of the cartel on proceedings before the Labour Court of South Africa would result in calls for the removal of the labour broker and legal professional responsible for drafting a decision memorialising and reiterating the ‘apartheid heresy’ from a top post at the ivy league University of Cape Town, in impeachment and disbarring proceedings that include removal of M H Cheadle from the institution’s Senate.
Deals made during court proceedings, included the merger of financial units associated with Kagiso and Sanlam, a major shareholder in Naspers.
A long association
The late Anton Rupert’s association with Naspers began in the 1940s with the establishment of Tegniek (Technology), the Afrikaans business magazine started by the Rembrandt Group which would later become Finansies & Tegniek (with an English counterpart Finance Week) in the Naspers stable. Mutual projects at the behest of the apartheid regime, orchestrated by Anton Rupert, included the Urban Foundation, set up to exploit the black townships and bantustans, and involving “prominent Afrikaners” Andreas Wassenaar (Sanlam), Wim de Villiers (Gencor), David de Villiers (Nationale Pers), and Jan van der Horst (Old Mutual) as well as Rupert’s own Rembrandt Group.
Today, the Rupert dynasty has an effective interest in Naspers via Momentum and Sanlam, including a variety of connection companies.
The Rupert-Sanlam connection began with the white supremacist Afrikanerbond and its “volkscapitalisme” emerging with the pivotal 1953 deal which saw Rembrandt’s acquisition of tobacco company Rothmans International, followed by successive deals (South African Breweries, Distell and Gencor), in which white Afrikaner economic interests were shared out amongst a select few. A bailout of Volkskas and Sanlam by Rothmans in the 1980s would put the Ruperts in the proverbial pound seat.
Sanlam-Rembrandt partnerships in mining giant Federale Mynbow would follow with Sanlam retaining shares in Rembrandt and vice versa, the “mutual cooperation that will be created by this new and powerful partnership”.
“The controlling interest in Gencor was held by Federale Mynbou, in which Sanlam and Rembrandt between them held a 72% stake. As a result, Sanlam became one of the largest conglomerates in the country after Anglo American and Old Mutual.” 3 The often tempestuous relationship between Rembrandt and Sanlam is illustrated in several chapters of Anton Rupert’s biography, written by Naspers editor Ebbe Dommisse and published by Naspers imprint, Tafelberg.
Rembrandt would go on to buy out Sanlam’s stake in Volkskas, in the process orchestrating a variety of mergers and spin-off companies.
The Rupert, Bekker, Stofberg relationship
The Rupert, Bekker, Stofberg relationship began in the early 1990s when Johann Rupert selected pay-TV as the third leg for the family’s growing offshore business, Richemont. 4
Cobus Stofberg is a major Naspers shareholder, a non-executive Naspers director, and a senior executive at MIH Holdings Limited, a Naspers subsidiary.
The pivotal 1994 election year would see the creation of a 50-50 Rupert-Bekker holding company, NetHold, which held the multichoice assets which would later become MIH. Rupert’s Remgro stake however was subsequently spun-off into Canal+ in a complex equity deal which effectively removed Remgro control over the entity. Remgro, currently holds 31.2% of Sabido, the media division of black-owned conglomerate HCI, (eTV) amongst other media assets which include radio stations such as Heart 104.9 FM.
Another current Remgro-Naspers connecting company is Dark Fibre Africa. A Bloomberg search reveals that Rudi Jansen of Naspers Limited has “Board Affiliations on Dark Fibre Africa (RF) (Pty) Ltd”. Dark Fibre Africa is held via a complex series of nested companies, and ultimately owned by Venfin, a Remgro subsidiary.
Anton Rupert’s 2005 biography contains a diagram of the share structure of Rembrandt, showing SAIL as a Venfin subsidiary. The SAIL website claims the group is “privately-owned” but is involved in DSTV sportscasting, including Vodacom SuperRugby and DSTV delicious. Rupert’s Venfin at the time had a 15% stake in Vodacom.
Not only is Remgro invested in SABIDO which owns eTV, it is a crucial part of the MIH Multichoice bouquet and resulting Media Cartel. The latest scandal involving Multichoice’s dominance in this sector is bound to ring alarm bells.
The Sanlam Connection
The Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Lewens Assuransie Maatskappij Beperk (South African National Life Assurance Company Limited) otherwise known as Sanlam, is perhaps the most difficult entity to deal with. As an insurance giant, it is anything but transparent. It is only in recent years that the Naspers-Sanlam connection has come under scrutiny.
A history of the company here and here shows that In December 1917 a small group of Afrikaners including Willie Hofmeyr (a prominent Afrikaner leader and first chairman of the Board of Directors of the then newly established Afrikaans newspaper De Burger owned by Nasionale Pers, and since 1918, Managing Director of Nasionale Pers), started the enterprise.
In reality two separate entities emerged from the one holding company, Sanlam and Santam. The one focusing on short term insurance, the other on long term insurance.
In 1935 Sanlam bought the shares of the life assurance company African Homes Trust, which would later become Metropolitan Life, from Santam. In effect two companies owned by the single holding company would begin selling units back and forth in a familiar pattern which would repeat itself many times. The Metropolitan deal would later play itself out during proceedings in 2010, as the cartel cemented its control over units that had been opened up to limited black economic empowerment, and giving a semblance of transformation, and yet Naspers itself, opposed the outcome of the Truth Commission and thus resisted the negotiated settlement and transitional justice framework.
Afrikaner business intrigue thus really beings in 1940, when Federale Volksbeleggings (FVB) was registered by Sanlam, “giving policy owners a stake in a large number of commercial and industrial companies and providing them with the opportunity to contribute” towards white broad-based development, to their mutual benefit. The foundation of FVB would eventually lead to the foundation of Afrikaner industrial and mining giant Gencor in the 1950s and the ensuing competition for control of South Africa’s industrial sector by the Rupert dynasty, and its takeover of Volkskas which in turn created Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) and lead to the creation of Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), owned by Remgro.
A variety of co-option schemes and plans to include key black industrialists have further implicated the cartel in a ruse to simply whitewash past associations with the apartheid regime. Patrice Motsepe for instance, owns a substantial stake in Sanlam’s Ubuntu-Botha BEE Scheme. One can’t help but thinking the result is a black PW Botha of BEE.
RMB own 100% of Momentum, which in turn is part of a new entity called Momentum Metropolitan Investments (MMI), the result joins both sides of the cartel in an interesting financial merger.
1Retrieved 11 April 2015 http://www.iol.co.za/business/companies/rupert-hits-out-at-the-anc-1.1616316#.VSjnM-HvakA
2Retrieved 11 April 2015 http://www.financialmail.co.za/fmfox/2013/12/05/rupert-denies-grand-media-scheme-at-remgro