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20 November 2017 15:15 (South Africa)
Opinionista Paul Trewhela

The Ramaphosa allegations – An issue for the Constitutional Court

  • Paul Trewhela
    Paul-Trewhela.jpg
    Paul Trewhela

    Born in Johannesburg in 1941, Paul Trewhela worked in underground journalism with Ruth First and edited the underground journal of MK, Freedom Fighter, during the Rivonia Trial. He was a political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort as a member of the Communist Party in 1964–1967, separating from the SACP while in prison. In exile in Britain he was co-editor with the late Baruch Hirson of Searchlight South Africa, banned in South Africa.

If these allegations do come from the Sunday Independent, there are grounds for argument that the allegations are contrary to the Constitution of South Africa insofar as a foreign state should not influence in any way a political process leading to elections determining the next South African National Assembly and President.

Allegations against Cyril Ramaphosa which could be politically damaging - purportedly made in the name of the editor of the Sunday Independent, Steven Motale - have been circulated in public.

This appears to indicate there are grounds for an application to the Constitutional Court, given that the  Sunday Independent belongs to a company owned by:

(a) a foreign state, China, operating a political system contrary to that of the Constitution of South Africa, in that freedom of political parties is not permitted there and critics of the ruling political party are imprisoned there on grounds which are illegal in South Africa (ownership 20%); and

(b) the South African state, under political direction of ANC government since 1994 and under political direction of current President Jacob Zuma (supporting a rival candidate to Cyril Ramaphosa, namely Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the President's ex-wife), owns a further 25% of the company.

If in fact these allegations do come from the Sunday Independent, there are grounds for argument that the allegations are contrary to the Constitution of South Africa insofar as a foreign state should not influence in any way a political process leading to elections determining the next South African National Assembly and President.

It is equally contrary to the Constitution of South Africa that institutions of state in South Africa which are subject to political direction by the current South African government should in any way influence elections determining in any way the next South African National Assembly and President.

The Sunday Independent is part of a company derived from the former Argus Company (including The Star, Pretoria News, Cape Times, Cape Argus, etc - the biggest morning newspaper group in South Africa), which was sold to an Irish-based company group, Independent News and Media, headed by the former Heinz chairman, Sir Tony O'Reilly, in 1994. The Independent Group later sold its South Africa media holdings in 2013 to  Independent News and Media South Africa (INMSA), which is 55% owned by Sekunjalo Investments.

It is the remaining 45% ownership of INMSA that is in question here.

The Wikipedia website for Sekunjalo Investments states:

“Sekunjalo holds 55% ownership of Cape Town-based Independent News and Media South Africa (INMSA) with the remaining ownership made up of  Chinese  and Public Investment Corporation of South Africa (a South African government owned company).  Two Chinese State Owned Enterprises (China International Television Corporation  and the  China Africa Development Fund) invested R400 million in the deal to acquire 20% of the Newspaper.  The Public Investment Corporation of South Africa invested R500 million to acquire a 25% share. The purchase of the South African-based media group from  Independent News and Media  was concluded in August 2013 for €150-million (R2 billion). According to the  Mail and Guardian  Sekunjalo Independent Media's 55% purchase of INMSA was largely funded with a loan from the government owned  Public Investment Corporation  and Government Employees Pension Fund.”

In other words, the Chinese state owns 20% of INMSA, while two South African state bodies, PIC and GEPF, together own a further 25% of INMSA.

That means that INMSA was politically created and is at least potentially politically controlled. Only a political decision could have permitted a foreign state to have such a high degree of control over such a major source of media opinion in South Africa, and only a political decision could have permitted two South African state bodies to have such a major controlling interest in the national press. These decisions were made under authority of Jacob Zuma's government.

This is the first time in the history of South Africa that two governments have had such a high degree of potential or actual control of the press in the country, one of them the government of South Africa itself, the other one of the two most powerful states in the world.

If we were to use the ideological jargon of the campaign supporting Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, this is “state monopoly capitalism” on a big scale.

I discussed the potential dangers arising from a company formed on this basis in an article headed "China-ANC alliance a threat to media freedom in SA", published on Politicsweb on 12 March 2014.

The allegations directed against Cyril Ramaphosa heading towards the ANC national elective conference in December should be considered in this context.

The issue should be brought to the Constitutional Court, as a matter of urgency. DM

  • Paul Trewhela
    Paul-Trewhela.jpg
    Paul Trewhela

    Born in Johannesburg in 1941, Paul Trewhela worked in underground journalism with Ruth First and edited the underground journal of MK, Freedom Fighter, during the Rivonia Trial. He was a political prisoner in Pretoria and the Johannesburg Fort as a member of the Communist Party in 1964–1967, separating from the SACP while in prison. In exile in Britain he was co-editor with the late Baruch Hirson of Searchlight South Africa, banned in South Africa.

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