Chinese Plan to Control South Africa Media? (Review)

South Africa MediaThe media outlets in South Africa are set for a massive shake up now that the Chinese have invested into the Independent Newspaper Group (ING.) China, ruled by the Communist Party of China, is the second biggest economic power in the world and reportedly will acquire a twenty percent stake in the ING group.

The Competition Commission issued a report last year that Sekuniali Independent Media Pty Ltd, a private company incorporated in South Africa, is the first acquiring firm. The second acquiring corporation is incorporated in the Republic of Mauritius, and will be known as Interacom Investment Holdings Limited.

China International Television Corporation (CITVC) and China Africa Development Fund (CADF) announced the name of the new company as indicated in the shareholders agreement. The South African Competition Commission did not mention that CITVC and CADF are wholly owned companies of the Chinese state. In China, no political parties are allowed but one, and the Communist Party exercises a one-party dictatorship over the media.

Sekuniali Independent Media is a public investment corporation, and the African National Congress (ANC), the governing party of South Africa, holds a twenty-five percent stake in this company. The ANC has openly sanctioned this agreement during October last year with the Chinese state company. This deal has facilitated the ANC/Chinese state entry into most of the morning newspapers published in the Country in the English language.

The ANC, the South Africa ruling party, has been accused of working together with the Chinese ruling party to increase their influence in the local media, which is often viewed as a hostile media sector.

Sekuniali, a Black Economic Empowerment company, acquired 55 percent of Independent News and Media Group. It was formerly the Argus Company, and owned by the Anglo American Corporation, which sold to ING in 1994. Between the two governments of South Africa and China, they now own 45 percent in this company.

Sekuniali now has control over fourteen newspapers, including the popular Sunday Independent, which is nationally circulated. Up to 28 percent of the advertising spend is now controlled by this group, and this expands to 22 percent of all newspapers sold in the country. With up to 63 percent circulation of the English newspapers, this makes a commanding presence in the print journalism in the country.

It is a scarce occurrence for a Communist country to have such a mighty influence over English language news media anywhere in the world. The English news media in South Africa has not experienced such a strong superior power before, especially of a foreign nature.

This whole issue was craftily masked in the South African and international media attention to decline, the death and burial of Nelson Mandela. The South African Communist Party (SACP) acknowledged a day after his death that prior to his arrest in 1962, Nelson Mandela was an active member of the SACP central committee. No mention of this embarrassing truth was allowed to disrupt the premiere of the Mandela Film, when his death was announced from the podium at the close of the film.

This same awkward fact was omitted from more than five biographies of Mandela. The immense implication of the Chinese and ANC media control of the most significant sector in the English Language newspapers in South Africa was not reported. Nor the study of the heavily backed Communist and ANC governments received no media attention. A few obligatory reports with no study were found in Overseas papers referring to the Chinese media deal with South Africa.

Editorial staff in South Africa immediately undertook to report the death of Mandela with haste. The first daily newspaper in South Africa, founded in 1872, the Cape Times, the editor Ms A Dasmois, was relieved of her post the day after Mandela died. The editor  recalled the amount of time and effort by the staff undertaken when his death was announced and referred to this as “Madiba wraparound” after her sacking. She said the Cape Times was the finest paper she had worked with, and this paper was voted one of the 14 top front pages in the world by Time Magazine.

Dr. Igbal Surve, formally a medical doctor to Mandela, and the current chairperson of Sekuniali, in his attempts, to justify the removal of the Cape Times editor said, “the failure of the Cape Times to lead with such a momentous event was an affront to the dignity of Madiba and a disservice to our readers”. Dr. Surve, the media front person for the ANC and president Jacob Zuma, also said the papers would cover more positive aspects of the country in the future.

Within the following month after the dismissal of the Cape Times editor, another incident occurred. Terry Bell a business report journalist in the IDG group was told that his Inside Labor column was under review and placed on hold.

This was undoubtedly due to the fact that Bell queried an instruction received from Cape Times referring to a conversation between the general secretary Kriel, of a Clothing Union and Dr Surve. A conversation whereby both parties agreed that matters of interaction between the Cape Times and its new owners should be facilitated. The Clothing union has a share of the new controlled media syndicate.

Bell detailed that Kriel instigated attacks on the Cape Times and that the paper did not carry one positive statement about the struggles of the workers. Bell saw the role as a campaign against neo-liberalism that he recognized in the Cape Times.

Dr. Surve is also the chairman of the South Africa-Saudi-Arabia Business Council and a council member of the South Africa-US Business forum.

The influential joint state financial control over the ING group is a dangerous aspect on the press freedom of South Africa. The Chinese plan to takeover the South African Media will result in the freedom of speech and open dialogue clearly being a former extravagance.

By Laura Oneale


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