Just how right-wing are the Avusa & Naspers white masters?
In the column (“Haffajee does it for white masters”) that got him axed from the Sowetan, Eric Miyeni suggests that City Press editor Ferial Haffajee allowed the publication in her newspaper of a series of articles disclosing the questionable financial affairs of that favourite South African youngster, Julius Malema, because she has “been deployed by white capital to sow discord amongst blacks.”
Miyeni goes on to suggest that Haffajee probably wakes up to the nauseating sight of her own black face in the mirror – the wave of nausea brought on by her obvious self-hatred. Perhaps the most damaging of his statements along these lines is that if Haffajee had been so brash in her traitorous (to fellow blacks, I assume) actions in the 1980s, she would probably have been treated like other black apartheid-era ‘traitors’ at the time: “…she’d have had a burning tyre around her neck.”
(For those unfamiliar with the reference, Miyeni is suggesting that Haffajee would have been ‘necklaced’ – a township court form of punishment reserved primarily for people considered to be collaborators of the apartheid regime in which a rubber car tyre filled with petrol is placed around the ‘traitor’ and set alight.)
Later in his note, Miyeni goes on to state that “It’s clear to everybody that white South African business is locking black people out.” Personally I consider myself to be part of those ‘everybodies’ and was a little perturbed that something wasn’t as clear to me as Miyeni seems to think it should be.
Reactionary Right-Wing Newspapers
The (not entirely unexpected) support that Miyeni received from the ANC Youth League after his dismissal triggered further enquiry: “The Sowetan, like all the reactionary newspapers is showing a level of inconsistency on their application of freedom of speech as enshrined in the Constitution. The decision to terminate his contract is clearly not an independent decision, but influenced by the right-wing elements who determine the direction of the Sowetan.”
The question I asked was just who are these white masters that have persuaded Haffajee to place her editorial integrity in jeopardy by publishing articles designed to sow discord? And who are the right-wing elements determining the direction of our reactionary newspapers that had the temerity to dismiss a black man for speaking his mind?
I went searching for white masters in Avusa and right-wingers in Naspers. I could have done it the other way around – the results would have been much the same.
The White Masters of Avusa
Let’s start with the “white masters” of Avusa, the company which includes the Sowetan newspaper amongst its’ stable of media publications. A quick glance through their 2010 Annual Report should clarify things…
The Chairman of the Avusa Group is Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza. Certainly wouldn’t suggest that he is the white master Miyeni referred to in his columns’ headline. Must be this Prakash Desai chap then, the Avusa Group Chief Executive Officer. Hmm, maybe not him either. The rest of the Avusa directorate has definitely got some pale faces around the place – Benatar, Brand, Wilcox and Wixley. But there does seem to be a reasonable amount of darker skin tones in the photographs too – Cuba, Machaba-Abiodun, Oliphant and Xayiya are the names attached to these directors.
Okay, so perhaps the white masters are not on the board of directors then. As Avusa is a JSE-listed company, it must be the owners of the company – its shareholders – that are the true masters. Whilst a thorough analysis of all of the holders of shares in the company is well beyond my capabilities (and my patience!) that same Annual Report that showed us the composition of the company directorate tells us (on page 39) that there are two major shareholders each holding more than 10% of the company.
Avusa Shareholders Are The True Masters
The first is Richtrau, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mvelaphanda Group Limited, which holds a massive 25.5% stake of Avusa. It’s parent company is Mvelaphanda Holdings, the company founded by struggle-veteran Tokyo Sexwale. And perhaps the closest connection to a white master that Mr. Sexwale would have might be to his wife, and that’s stretching things.
The second of Avusa’s major shareholders, with a 10.9% shareholding is a company known as PIC. PIC is the Public Investment Corporation. PIC is wholly owned by the South African government, with the Minister of Finance as shareholder representative. Perhaps it is stating the obvious here, but when last I checked neither the South African government nor the Minister of Finance would fit the mould of “white masters” either. It may have been a tool of the white masters 100 years ago when it was established (as the then Public Debt Commissioner) but it sure isn’t anymore under the present CEO Elias Masilela.
Okay, so if not Avusa so much, then surely the right-wing elements determining the direction of the Sowetan?
Naspers – A Right-Wing Name If Ever I’ve Heard One
Naspers is a multi-national conglomerate that has sizable interests both in South Africa and internationally. The paper in question is one of a number under the Naspers Media24 business unit. Again, the publicly available (and fully interactive online formatted) Naspers Annual Report for 2011 leads us to some insight in the structure of the boards of directors of both Naspers and Media24. Because there is significant overlap between the two boards we’ll focus on the Media24 lot.
At the top of the list is Prof. Jakes Gerwel, former Director General in the then President Mandela’s office. He joined the Naspers right-wingers way back in 1999. That’s a fairly lengthy period in which a man with Prof. Gerwels’ intellect would have been able to uncover the right-wing elements and expose them for what they are, surely? (On the subject of Gerwels’ qualifications, of which he has many, and to satisfy my curiosity, does anyone know what a “LicGermPhil” qualification is?)
Admittedly, there are a number of Naspers directors with names that could perhaps be indicative of a right-wing tendency. (See what I did there JuJu?) We have a couple of Kooses, a Ruda, a Salie and even a Boetie. There is a Russel and a Rachel amongst the directors, both of whom seem somewhat darker than the rest, but other than their names and those of their paler-skinned fellows, there’s certainly no indication of rightist leanings.
Managing Media24. (Media 101 Not Required)
Okay, so maybe these right-wingers are not at board of director level. Probably more effective to have them in control of the publications themselves. The day-to-day operational stuff. The management of the media is where the manipulation is going to be most useful, right? So the Senior Management team at Media24 or the Naspers Print division is worth a look at.
CEO of Media24 is Ms. Esmaré Weideman. Uh oh. A white woman who studied journalism at the University of Stellenbosch. I was about to mark her down as the right-wing element based on that last fact because everyone knows that the U of S is synonymous with right-wing, and that this is an entirely baseless claim made in the same way as Myeni’s white business locking black people out statement. I was forced to change my opinion when I learned that Weideman was the only South African journalist to accompany Nelson Mandela on his world tour after his release – surely something that would not have been allowed to happen had she had right-wing tendencies.
Okay so if not the CEO, who then? Maybe the man in direct control, Fergus Sampson who has the fabulous title of “CEO Emerging Markets Division Media24 Newspapers”. Guess where City Press sits? You got it in one – directly under Mr. Sampsons’ managerial responsibility. Again there is no way to be certain of his political leanings, but at a guess and judging from his image, I’m prepared to go out on limb here and suggest that he’s probably not really a right-wing sort of guy.
Shareholders then. Must be them that’s the right-wing. Again, the useful Annual Report lays things out nicely for us, thanks to the Companies Acts’ disclosure requirements. Biggest single Naspers shareholder organisation? The self-same Public Investment Corporation that holds a chunk of Avusa also holds a little over 11% of Naspers’ issued shares. That would be the SA Government to you and I. Oh, dear – no space for right-wingers there either.
Will the white master right-wingers please stand up
Seriously. Please stop hiding under the radar, out of sight and away from the spotlight. Use your positions in the media, in control of the corporations that own the media, and stop with the petty hide-and-seek games. I’ve really spent a lot of time looking for you and I give up. You win.
And please be sure to introduce yourself to Mr. Minyeni and the members of the ANCYL at the same time. That’ll be a great help.