IT WAS bound to happen. The bizarre situation in which two apartheid-era springboks were taken to task by a post-democracy Springbok, over racism, quotas and paternalism. Followed by the media spin driven by Multichoice Supersport whose holding company Naspers refuses to come clean over its role in promoting separate development, race classification and segregation during the apartheid-era.
Naspers the company which owns Multichoice, ducked the subpoena handed out by the TRC to its former-director PW Botha, refused to participate in the media hearings at the commission, rebuked a group of journalists attending in their private capacity, and instead has stuck to a version of history that is anything but an accurate and fair depiction of the times.
After effectively being found guilty of gross violations of human rights by the commission, and thus a report which records “a total lack of concern for the company’s support of the racist system” (Volume 4 of the Final TRC report), the company proceeded to deny the reality.
“I worked hard to earn my own respect in this game… so, I’m not going to be patronised by two individuals who played in apartheid – a segregated era – and come and want to undermine… people” said Ashwin Willemse after a match last month between the Lions and the Brumbies.`
The Supersport public relations machine immediately went into overdrive. Holding their own internal inquiry, the company casually announced yesterday that it had found that “there was no racism involved in Ashwin Willemse walking out from an on-air broadcast” in the process exonerating Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, two darlings of the apartheid regime.
Apparently SuperSport CEO Gideon Khobane maintains the group was cleared by Advocate Vincent Maleka, and thus presumably a member of the Bar. The result is anything but an open inquiry before an independent tribunal, and echoes similar statements by manager Ishmet Davidson, who claimed on air the entire group had been cleared by the TRC back in the early 90s.
Davidson’s 2015 comments followed a case-limited apology issued by Media24 CEO Esmarie Weideman citing only one instance in which a ‘coloured employee’ had experienced difficulties with separate facilities.
Talk about undermining the Truth. Willemse did not participate in the internal review for obvious reasons. The attempt to legitimize apartheid-denial by acting as sole arbiter of apartheid history, must be rejected for what it is, a total sham.
Willemse’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told SAFM radio host Tsepiso Makwetla on Wednesday morning that Willemse “did not see any value in participating with the process” because the rugby analyst had already expressed his views …”
“We expressed a view to Adv Maleka SC that he (Adv Maleka SC) was being used to sanitise and chlorinate failures by SuperSport to deal with a number of reported incidents of racism by the gentlemen in question‚”
DISCLOSURE: The writer is currently suing Naspers via the Equality Court and is awaiting the outcome of a case brought against Legal Aid South Africa in this regard.
READERS may remember the controversy surrounding the banning and destruction of material published by Medialternatives. In particular the circumstances surrounding the elimination of my book review of A Secret Burden by none other than M&G editor Ferial Haffajee.
The book itself was a collection of prose and poetry “written anonymously by young, white South African conscripts deployed during the so-called ‘Border War”, and my review brought attention to the problem of embedded journalists, the manner in which the SADF had literally paid for material published by the former Argus Group and Naspers, in the process lavishing pro-War attention via Scope, Sarie and Huisgenoot.
It is telling that in the aftermath of the Winnie Stratcom revelations, that one Terry Bell, lately of Media24, another outlet responsible for the destruction of material, including photographic images, is defending the track record of journos implicated in dirty tricks, at the former Argus Group, whilst referring to a list of as yet unpublished names. According to Bell, the problem remains, that State operative, turned TRC witness, John Horak is also dead. We beg to differ, since the TRC report exists, alongside credible records still in the possession of the commission, entered into evidence but only referred to in passing by the final report.
Readers should therefore be reminded that the following testimony does appear in the TRC report into the media under apartheid. One can only hope the Minister of Justice will take the opportunity, presented by the passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to release evidence which are now classified documents. Information referred and alluded to in testimony to the general public, if only to set this matter straight. The group photo opportunities taken during the Border War, for which many journalists accepted junkets, will certainly make for interesting documentary and archival history on the subject, whilst providing all-important context:
“Williamson gave information about another STRATCOM-type operation which involved taking senior members of the media to Special Forces bases on the South African border for a bosberaad with the highest ranking officers of the military and intelligence agencies. The state’s relations with the media were, he said, seen as a “macro continuum” from the owners of the media, to the editors who controlled the newspaper, right down to the dustbin cleaners who cleaned the dustbins at night and stuffed material in an envelope to be collected by agents.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 68, pg180
“Williamson also provided a photograph, taken on the Angolan border in July 1987, which contained virtually the entire general staff of the defence force, various government ministers and staff and Williamson himself, together with a number of highly placed journalists. The focus on that occasion was how South Africa and the newspapers would respond to what the Soviets were doing in Angola.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 69, pg180
“State operative John Horak explained that there were four basic categories of media spies: agents, informers, sources, and ‘sleepers’. Craig Williamson confirmed this. An agent was a professional police officer with a job to do. Informers gave information either voluntarily or were recruited. He identified two categories of informers: those who were ideologically totally opposed to what the organisation was doing and those who did it for the money. There were also those who did it to get at colleagues for reasons such as competing for promotion. ‘Sleepers’ were long-term plants, people who knew things but would only provide information if their consciences were bothering them.” TRC Report Vol 4, Ch6, para 93, pg184
NOTE: In 2016 Naspers directors promised to investigate the whereabouts of several articles and images relating to South African jazz music history produced under my own byline but in their possession. At this time, the company has not responded. The items have in all likelihood been destroyed.
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 ongoing revision of apartheid history by South Africa’s media has ratcheted up another notch with the publication of a hagiography of Wouter Basson in the conservative Mail and Guardian. The piece praising the man nicknamed Dr Death, and responsible for the apartheid regime’s bioweapons programme, comes as the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is investigating Basson for professional malpractice and ethics violations.
On Friday 22 November, journalist Mia Malan attempted to recast Basson, the man responsible for the apartheid-era dirty tricks programme known as Project Coast, which included illegal experimentation on live subjects and the murder of anti-apartheid activists, as an ‘exceptional and talented cardiologist’.
The piece appears to be in response to a publicity drive by Basson who was also responsible for producing psychiatric drugs such as MDMA and Methamphetamine which flooded the townships during the closing stages of the civil conflict and who also worked on a race-virus targeting South Africa black population, amongst other dirty tricks. Now, a counter-suite against Basson’s detractors, pending the outcome of the medical hearing, is not out of the question as apartheid revisionism renders South African history nothing more than a fiction.
The piece purports to carry comments from Basson’s patients praising his skills as a doctor, as well as comment from members of the medical profession, in particular the South African Heart Association.
“The South African Heart Association, which represents the professional interests of cardiologists in the country, considers his skills to be “exceptional”.
“According to the organisation’s president, Adriaan Snyders, who has known him for 20 years, there is “no doubt” that Basson is “one of the top cardiologists in South Africa, – and his scientific knowledge is outstanding”.
Basson has been able to hit back at his critics, armed with a judgement from a failed Post-TRC prosecution. In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the [Gauteng North] High Court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct during the civil conflict.
Reasons for the lack of a conviction appear to be related to the manner in which evidence was presented by the prosecution and the state’s inability to provide a moral and ethical framework for such prosecutions.
Although the activities of South Africa’s own MK Ultra programme known as Project Coast are well-documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the problem of holding officials accountable for their actions under the present government continues to be a problem. The resulting apartheid denial and revision of history as the legal system, followed by the media, enters the world of fable, is plain to see.
SEE ALSO: Tutu concedes TRC flaw
Human Rights Day this year marks exactly 10 years since the final TRC recommendations were handed over to then-President Thabo Mbeki.
Civil society says there is a significant amount of unfinished business relating to these recommendations with issues like reparations, compensation, and prosecutions needing to be addressed.
The TRC gripped the nation, called a crying commission by some, but the man at the helm of the process was confident about its outcomes.
“It’s been incredible. There are two impressions. One: how could we ever be so ghastly? The depth of depravity takes your breath away. That’s the one side. The other side is almost exhilarating – that people, who have suffered so much as these, should have the capacity to forgive …and the dignity that is being affirmed, says former Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Very few of the Apartheid Government’s top brass gave unequivocal apologies, but at least some were brave enough.
One of the then top brass, Leon Wessels says: “In many respects I believe I did want to know. In my own way I had suspicions of things that caused discomfort in official circles but because I did not have the facts to substantiate my suspicions or I had lacked the courage to shout from the rooftops. I have to confess that I only whispered in the corridors. That I believe is the accusation that people many level at many of us that has not been levelled. We simply did not and I did not confront the reports of injustices head-on. But the question is being asked whether that was enough, after all, it could not undo the past.
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.”
FINALLY, after years of delay tactics and talk of a “blanket amnesty”, the much vaunted post-TRC prosecutions have arrived. A huge relief not only for the immediate victims of war-crimes and crimes against humanity but for all those South Africans who experienced apartheid and the military junta of Botha-Malan-Vlok.
If anything, the prosecutions will re-affirm the commitment by anti-apartheid activists to ending racial superiority in all its forms, and strike a note with those who criticised the TRC for not having any muscle. What is the use of granting amnesty to perpetrators of criminal activity if those crimes are later excluded from our social discourse?
There can be no Truth and Reconciliation without Justice and this missing element in our body politic will hopefully put the ghost of apartheid to rest,finally, as perpetrators are brought to book, in part for not having the guts to admit their wrongfulness or guilt before a world-wide audience.
Let there be peace, transparency and openness as the country watches, listens and waits for the post-TRC trials to start, and for the transgressors to be sentenced. Only then can we hope to achieve a national reconciliation built upon the moral structures of the anti-apartheid movement, one that refused to cowtow to the illegitimate structures of the apartheid government and which still aims to create a nation that is wider and broader than any single political structure or party.
As a war resistor I would also like to take this opportunity to renew my call for a national reckoning and atonement for the Border War and for our government to apologise to the frontline states, especially Namibia and Angola, for the war crimes carried out in the name of the Republic of South Africa.