Sanef concerned about INMSA deal
Assurances are needed that the constitutional mandate of journalists employed at Independent News & Media South Africa (INMSA) will be protected if the company is acquired by Sekunjalo Independent Media, editors have said.
A number of professional journalists were "deeply concerned" at the manner in which the acquisition was being conducted, South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) chairman Nic Dawes wrote in an open letter to Competition Commissioner Shan Ramburuth.
"A singular feature of Sekunjalo's application is the lack of information about the people who are members of the consortium representing the company," he said.
Dawes said INMSA publications played an important role in the production of South Africa's news.
"This role has a major influence on the public of South Africa in their appreciation and assessment of the conduct of governance and the general economic, social and political affairs of the country as a whole."
Sekunjalo had said it did not envisage any retrenchments and that the concerns of employees had been met.
Dawes said that while this assurance was welcomed, media staff needed to be able to carry out their Constitutional obligations.
"Editorial employees labouring under these obligations require firm assurances that the people in control of the company will provide the equipment, resources and the employment environment necessary to meet those obligations."
As INMSA had a monopoly in the English-language newspaper markets of Cape Town and Durban, and large stakes in Pretoria and Kimberley, "serious scrutiny" of the plans around the acquisition was needed.
In the letter, Dawes wrote that confirmation was also needed that no political party would control the appointment of the chairman or CEO of INMSA.
The letter was emailed to media industry members, who were asked to support an appeal for the Competition Commission to extend its hearings into the acquisition.
Business Day reported that the Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium and INMSA signed a binding offer in February, which was subject to regulatory approval by the South African Reserve Bank and the Competition Commission.
The consortium had made a submission to the Competition Commission explaining why its R2-billion takeover of the group should be approved.
According to the newspaper, it emerged in this submission that the Government Employees' Pension Fund would acquire a 25-percent stake, worth about R500-million, in the group as part of the consortium.
A transaction notice reportedly stated that shareholders in the consortium, which was set up by Dr Iqbal Surve, included Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla and businessman Sandile Zungu, who had been appointed with Surve to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) business council by President Jacob Zuma.
INMSA publishes several newspapers, including the Cape Times, The Star and The Mercury. IOL is the digital division of INMSA. - Sapa