Sekunjalo sues TMG for defamation
Sekunjalo Investment Group, which owns Independent Media, today announced that they have instructed their attorneys Webber Wentzel to institute legal proceedings against Times Media Group (TMG) following its publication of a defamatory article, “Breaking the News”, authored by Ann Crotty. Sekunjalo will shortly announce similar instructions against other media outlets that have republished the offending article.
Sekunjalo Group applauds the decision announced last week by Independent Media and the African News Agency (ANA) who announced that they will sue TMG for R200m and R500m respectively. Sekunjalo’s damages claim will be for R500m and this brings the total damages claim against TMG to R1,2 billion.
Sekunjalo Group portfolio comprises investments in more than 200 companies across the African continent, Switzerland, USA and China, including shareholdings and partnerships with 9 multinational companies operating in Africa. The group has significant investments in South Africa with major listed and private companies, all of whom directly and indirectly employ in excess of 115 000 people.
“The Sekunjalo Group considers the Crotty article an insult made with a colonial and apartheid era mentality. The suggestion that Independent Media which constitutes less than 2% of Sekunjalo’s investment portfolio, is being asset-stripped is both laughable and bizarre. It speaks to the moral bankruptcy of the individuals who write such slander.
These same individuals either remain silent or they applaud Independent’s competitors when they restructure their businesses for whatever reasons, but when a black controlled company like Sekunjalo does it they call it “asset-stripping”.
Sekunjalo has in its 20 year history won many awards and has been a stellar example of good corporate governance and sound business practices and values. We take the highly defamatory accusation of asset-stripping very seriously. It is an insult to our ethical business practices and our adherence to good corporate governance which are integral to all our businesses – both in South Africa and globally,” said Executive Chairman of Sekunjalo investment Group, Dr Iqbal Survé.
Far from asset-stripping, Dr Survé said that since acquiring Independent Media, Sekunjalo has invested in excess of R200m in the business to assist the company’s evolution from essentially a print media to a multi-platform media company. Backed by Independent Media’s board of directors and shareholders, Sekunjalo’s investments were directed at funding, amongst others, new technology, IT infrastructure and the up-skilling and training of journalists. The move was in line with the company’s strategy to transition to a digitally-driven company while optimizing efficiencies throughout the organization. Sekunjalo intends to invest a further R500 million in the next 3 years. Dr Survé is confident of an award of significant damages for the defamatory statements made by Ann Crotty, which he said “is fitting for a novel of fiction”. He would like to see such award being used for the further education and training of journalists.
Dr Survé added that since the acquisition of Independent Media in 2013, there has been a deliberate campaign of bullying, lies, distortion and disinformation against himself, Independent Media and Sekunjalo. This seems to have the hallmarks of a sinister and deliberate strategy by our competitors and detractors. The racism is evident in this campaign.
“Clearly this campaign is designed to undermine our investment, our business credibility and our transformation agenda, but it also highlights the lengths to which our competitors will go to hold on to the traditionally white-dominated media which benefitted royally from apartheid,” he said.
“It is normal practice for any dynamic company to constantly review its business strategy and add value for its shareholders. All companies and especially media companies the world over do this especially in today’s rapidly changing media environment. We have witnessed our competitors restructure their businesses without any comment from our detractors. This whole situation is vindictive and defamatory and we have to draw the line,” said Dr Survé.
Sekunjalo further believes that the legal action that it will institute against TMG as well as the pending legal action against other individuals and media outlets is a sign of its support for small black owned publishers who have been trampled on by the big media conglomerates and who remain prejudiced by the monopolization of media in SA.
“We will not be intimidated and therefore we have no hesitation in holding them to account as companies, groups and in their personal capacities in our courts and in the courts abroad. This fight is not only our fight; it is a fight on behalf of small, black owned publishers who have been bullied by the media monopolies and there surrogates,” said Dr Survé.
Most importantly this fight is about the control and transformation of the media and ultimately about the economy of this country. The time is now” said Dr Survé.