Opinion

Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo will not be deterred from investing in the media

Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo will not be deterred from investing in the media
Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (Sekunjalo
) would like to inform media corporations operating in South Africa, their journalists, the business community at large, and the citizens of South Africa that it will not be deterred from investing monies into media outlets in the country.

Sekunjalo, under the executive chairmanship of Dr Iqbal Survé, will also not be told where and how it should invest its monies. This as rival media organisations to Independent Media, in which Sekunjalo via a consortium, Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM), is the main shareholder, attempted to infer it should not be shoring up its own investments, this past week.

Sekunjalo has repeatedly informed all media - and anyone who asks - that it is also the only shareholder at Independent Media that has invested monies (more than R300 million) into operations at the media house.

It has done so for a number of reasons. These included the dire need to modernise the legacy business, which had been run into the ground by its former owners.

Independent Media, as the most comprehensive print media establishment in South Africa, with a national footprint and a large distribution base was, and still is, an important vehicle for disseminating the news in South Africa.

As a media organisation owned, operated and managed by black South Africans, the majority of ethnic groupings in the country, Independent Media serves to convey a broader news narrative to a diverse audience.

Independent Media has undergone a digital transformation since its rescue in 2013 and now uses its platforms to inform its increasingly digitally-savvy reader baseline. The digital readership, like all other smart publishers, is continuing to offset dwindling print runs and Independent’s numbers are showing healthy signs of robust sustainable growth.

Independent Media covers stories emanating from all quarters of the country. It has done so in a non-partisan manner. It continues to do so.

It is, in short, a formidable channel for the dissemination of a broad range of information and knowledge, and that is what makes it both a valuable proposition for its owners and a threat to its media counterparts.

The ownership of media has not changed much in South Africa since the advent of democracy.

Independent Media was the first major news organisation to be owned and managed by black South Africans, until Tiso Blackstar was purchased last year, which was suffering a similar fate to that of Independent Media (prior to 2013), under the hands of its foreign owners.

Media diversity is essential to the well-being of any country.

Media diversity in a country whose peoples have historically been denied access to information or who were fed the predominant party line, is even more of an imperative.

However, despite more than two decades of democracy, there remain forces who wish to control the plot and who seek to mute Independent Media’s voice in order to advance their own narrow views, not too dissimilar to pre-democracy days.

Their attempts to silence South Africa’s alternative voice should be viewed as treason and not just anti-competitive behaviour, as in their continual misreporting and narrow perspectives they share with their readers, they are actively subverting South Africa’s right to a healthy and prosperous future.

More than that Sekunjalo has also invested in excess of R400m into the African News Agency, to ensure that the narrative of the African continent is shared with the rest of the world - stories by Africans, for Africans, the diaspora and to inform the rest of the world that Africa is rising.

While admittedly not yet profitable, it is a true investment in media and of course, in job creation.

Sekunjalo therefore maintains its right to invest its own monies or funds through the subsidiaries it controls as a major shareholder, where, when and how it likes.

That includes supporting viable operations at Independent Media.

Sekunjalo will not be cowed by its critics or by political interference.

Sekunjalo will continue to advocate for media freedom and diversity in media.

* Mandla Mbusi is the group corporate affairs and spokesperson of Sekunjalo.