Sunday, February 26, 2012

How free is the press in Southern Africa?A blast from the past

How free is the press in Southern Africa?

Whenever freedom of the press is debated it seems to be inevitable that the discussion will focus on the relationship between the press and the government of the day. Given the current state of play in South Africa and Zimbabwe this is understandable.

Wits Power Reporting Workshop: Deon Basson 1

In South Africa the press is fighting a noble battle against censorship by government. In recent times the press had more often than once had to protect its rights in courts of law against government ministers.

One striking example where the press scored an overwhelming victory was when Beeld successfully defended an urgent application by the Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe to interdict it from publishing further details about the electronic traffic information system eNaTIS 2.

But that is not what I wish to talk about this morning.

I believe press freedom is also endangered by phenomena such as self-censorship and so-called media synergy. The effect of a synergistic relationship will be practically illustrated later-on. Time does not allow for a detailed analysis.

Please consider the following bullet points:

First an international background. I am not naïve about the inner-workings of the capitalist system. But I genuinely believe we must consider the effect of commercialization on freedom of speech and investigative journalism. In his book The habits of highly deceptive media Norman Solomon writes (in an American context):

“Prospects are bleak. Consolidation of media ownership has been so rapid in recent years that now just ten corporations control most of this country’s news and information flow. The top spot belongs to Time Warner, followed by Disney, Viacom, News Corporation (Rupert Murdoch)…Those conglomerates are in business to maximize profits. They are hardly inclined to provide media space for advocates of curtailing their power.” 3

Question is, how do we square up in South Africa on this issue?

A survey done in 2000 among 300 journalists and news executives in the USA revealed that self-censorship is commonplace in the news media. The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists said they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four-in-ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices. 4 A challenge to the Wits Journalism School – what about a similar survey in South Africa?

To get an understanding of the above-mentioned phenomenon in global context it is probably necessary to thoroughly study the business and journalistic practices of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The removal of the BBC world service from his Star satellite network 5 and the infamous self-censorship by Newscorp subsidiary HarperCollins of Chris Patten’s book East and West to appease the Chinese government is a case in point. 6 Patten was Hong Kong’s last governor. In my view the books on Rupert Murdoch referenced below should be prescribed to all journalism students in South Africa.

Closer to home we should take note of an excellent exposition of some of the issues at hand. In a Masters dissertation at the University of Stellenbosch Gabriël Botma, a former art editor of Die Burger investigated media synergy as a strategy at that newspaper and the broader Media24 and Naspers groups comprehensively. His study found that synergy is a popular strategy at Die Burger in an effort to balance economic and political interests in reaction to real and perceived threats to the newspaper’s survival and future growth. The critical study also shows that synergy has negative implications for the content of Die Burger, the organization of coverage, as well as traditional journalistic ideals of independence. 7

What will happen to freedom of the press in South Africa if the full force of a ‘symbiotic’ relationship between government and big business hits the big media companies? Historian Prof. Herman Giliomee wrote in his book Die Afrikaners (my translation) about Naspers:

“There is the further consideration that Naspers as company earns more than three-quarters of its revenue from electronic business. The press group is exposed to interference by a governing party. If provocation is strong enough they (government) can withdraw (television) licenses. 8

A closing paragraph in a leader published in The Economist offers an alternative solution to big media companies who depend on synergistic relationships:

“In future, argues Carnegie, some high-quality journalism will also be backed by non-profit organizations. Already, a few respected news organizations sustain themselves that way – including the Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. An elite group of serious newspapers available everywhere online, independent journalism backed by charities, thousands of fired-up bloggers and well-informed citizen journalists: there is every sign that Arthur Miller’s national conversation will be louder than ever.” 9

Finally, on a personal note, I take a bit of pride that I have been fighting on my own for the last 19 months to stop a court interdict and a defamation suit of R20,9m (the FXI couldn’t help financially). So far the matter hasn’t gone to court. 10 I will say a bit more about this in my presentation after lunch. 11 For now I wish to share with you a letter filed by Sharemax Investments (Pty) Ltd in court papers:
Dear Willie 12

Thank you for the confirmation and information on Sharemax you had faxed to me.

The relationship between Geld-Rapport 13 and Sharemax had always been important to us.

No investor has complained with us that Sharemax doesn’t fulfil its promises. In fact, we only get positive comments.

We don’t want to get involved in a debate between Deon Basson and yourselves. 14 As far as Geld-Rapport is concerned, we feel until this day that Sharemax has rendered an excellent service to investors as an authorised financial services provider.

Consequently, I have requested Johan Geertsema 15 of Geld-Rapport to finalise Sharemax’s participation for 2006.

We are looking forward to an exciting year. We want to keep our readers updated about investment opportunities from the horse’s mouth.

Fanus Gous 16

In conclusion: Take note of a recent Sanef press release dealing with the sub judice rule. 17 Hopefully editors will in future see property syndication schemes for what they are and report without fear or ‘synergy’ about it. Thank you.

1 Basson is an honorary professor in auditing at the University of Pretoria. His contribution is based on a chapter in a book to be published titled Public interest warriors. The book is likely to be published late in 2007 or early in 2008.

2 Mail & Guardianonline, 31 May 2007 retrieved on 31 May 2007

3 Solomon, Norman. The habits of highly deceptive media – Decoding spin and lies in Mainstream News. Common Couragepress, 1999, p. 7

4 The Pew Research Center. Self-Censorship: How often and why – Journalists avoiding the news. April 30, 2000. retrieved on 22 June 2004

5 Chenoweth, Neil. Virtual Murdoch – Reality Wars on the Information Highway. Secker & Warburg. London. 2001, pp. 120, 147, 175, 190, 280, 281, 309, 327 & 337. Also Page, Bruce. The Murdoch Archipelago. Simon & Schuster. London and other. 2003, pp. 464, 468, 471, 472, 473, 474 & 476.

6 Chenoweth, op cit, pp. 282-287 & 295 and Page, op cit, pp. 430, 467, 474, 477 & 486

7 Botma, Gabriel. Sinergie as politiek-ekonomiese strategie in die balansering van idealisme en markgerigtheid by Die Burger Wes-Kaap, 2004-2005. Verhandeling ingelewer ter gedeeltelike voldoening aan die vereistes vir die graad M-Phil aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch. Retrieved on 3 June 2007

8 Giliomee, Hermann. Die Afrikaners – ‘n Biografie. Tafelberg. Kaapstad, 2004, p. 630

9 The Economist. Who killed the newspaper?, August 26 to September 1, 2006, pp. 9-10. See in the same edition More media, less news, pp. 50-52

10 Transvaal Provincial Division of the High Court. Sharemax Investments (Pty) Ltd vs Deon Basson. Case numbers 2492/2006 and 3208/2006. The court action and many related regulatory issues will be covered in Basson’s book Public interest warriors to be published late in 2007 or early in 2008

11 Basson, Deon. Dubious investment schemes. Presentation at the Wits Power reporting Workshop. Johannesburg, 4 September 2007

12 “Willie” is Willie Botha, MD of Sharemax Investments (Pty) Ltd

13 Geld-Rapport is a bi-monthly supplement to Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport. It’s business plan appears to be to allow companies to write about their industries and then advertise on the same page . The normal business section of Rapport is known as Sake-Rapport. Sake-Rapport has not investigated and written about Sharemax

14 In his founding affidavit (case number 3208/2006) Willie Botha stated: “The editor of “Geld-Rapport” is supportive of Applicant and is of the view that Applicant ‘…’n besondere diens aan die beleggers lewer en ‘n gemagtigde finansiële diensverskaffer is…’ This respected editor has also confirmed that over the years ‘…nog geen belegger (het) by ons gekla dat Sharemax nie hul beloftes gestand gedoen het nie. Trouens ons ontvang net goeie kommentaar.’ A copy of an e-mail by Mr Gous is attached hereto marked “WB7”. The respondent’s campaign can justly be said to be a lone campaign…To demonstrate the falsity and futility of the Respondent’s campaign, I attach and e-mail received from the Editor of the “Geld” section of the Rapport newspaper. The e-mail proceeds to state, contrary to the (alleged) fears expressed by Respondent, that ‘…nog geen belegger het by ons gekla dat Sharemax nie hulle beloftes gestand doen nie. Trouens, ons ontvang net goeie kommentaar.’

15 Basson responded in his answering affidavit: “…historically I got used to it to often work virtually alone on a story. It is indeed not a strange scenario for an investigative journalist. In 2002 I worked for many months alone on the PSCGG/Tigon story although Moneyweb, Business Times and Personal Finance had previously made a huge contribution. Once Mr. Gary Porritt was arrested in December 2002 other newspapers and magazines followed. Applicant cites the favorable publicity it gets from Rapport’s Geld magazine. The magazine actually practices what is commonly known as sunshine journalism. Many articles in the magazine are actually written by directors of companies such as Applicant. The company normally advertises on the same page where the “editorial” is published. In that sense the editorial space had actually been bought. As a newspaper Rapport and in particular Dr. Fanus Gous, the editor of Geld-Rapport and previously editor of Sake-Rapport, had some bad experiences. During his tenure as editor of Sake-Rapport he published various positive articles about Tigon, PSCGG and Gary Porritt. One such article written by dr. Gous “Onderverdeling help Tigon om uit te blink op beurs” was published on 24 October 1999. A copy is attached hereto as “A43“. In 2002 the newspaper published huge advertisements promoting PSCGG as an investment. On 12 May 2002 it published a promotional article titled “Fonds verdubbel beleggers se geld blitsig”. A copy is attached hereto as “A44”. Shortly afterwards the editor of Rapport, Mr. Tim du Plessis phoned me and asked my opinion and he stopped the advertisements and promotional copy. PSCGG was liquidated and its chairman Jack Milne convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. Sadly Geld-Rapport afterwards continued to indulge in sunshine journalism. The email written by Dr. Gous to Applicants (and attached to its application) contains the following sentence: “Ek het Johan Geertsema van Geld-Rapport derhalwe versoek om so gou moontlik Sharemax se voortgesette deelname aan Geld-Rapport vir 2006 vas te maak.” Mr. Johan Geertsema is a former public relations manager and later company secretary of Saambou Holdings. He has since 2003 frequently acted as a consultant to Sharemax while also having a relationship with Rapport. It raises serious questions about the editorial independence of Geld-Rapport.

16 At the time Geertsema was a consultant to both Geld-Rapport and Sharemax.

17 Fanus Gous is a former professor in business economics at the then Rand Afrikaans University and a former editor of Sake-Rapport

18 SA National Editors' Forum (SANEF) Press Statement welcoming judgment ending sub judice rule and reinforcing press freedom. Retrieved on 2 September 2007

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Centre for Constitutional Rights

The Right to be Wrong

Dave Steward

FW de Klerk Foundation

By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the F W de Klerk Foundation

I was recently invited by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs to make an oral submission on the South African Weather Service Amendment Bill.

The Portfolio Committee met in the old National Assembly chamber, with its green leather benches and dark wooden panels. For 84 years this room was the repository of political sovereignty. The politicians who occupied these benches could - and did - pass any legislation that they liked. There was no consultation with the millions of South Africans whose lives they affected and there was no appeal against the strictures that they imposed.

Now, the tooled green leather desk where order papers had previously been stacked, was covered – somewhat irreverently, but very democratically - with cellophane-wrapped sandwich platters and plastic bottles of fruit juice.

Sovereignty no longer resided in this chamber - or even - in the new National Assembly chamber next door. It now resided in the well-thumbed booklet that I had in my pocket - the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The public was no longer excluded from the legislative process: instead, Parliament was required by the Constitution to make it part of the debate. I was there because, in our opinion, the legislation being considered by the committee failed to meet important requirements in my little booklet.

In particular, the bill laid down severe penalties - imprisonment of up to five years or fines of up to five million rand - for anyone a) who issued a severe weather or air pollution-related warning without the necessary written permission from the Weather Service; b) who supplied “false or misleading information” about the Weather Service; or c) who “unlawfully, intentionally or negligently” committed “any act which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the Weather Service.”

By the time I gave my oral submission, the government had already conceded the need to redraft the sub-section that prohibited others from issuing severe weather warnings. The intention had not been to prevent bona fide warnings but to combat potentially harmful and malicious hoaxes.

However, we were still concerned over the sub-sections that prohibited the dissemination of false or misleading information and action that might detrimentally affect the Weather Service. The Chairperson, Johnny de Lange, was astounded. The FW de Klerk Foundation was the only organisation that had objected to these sections! What, he asked incredulously, did we have against measures to prohibit false and misleading information?

I replied that what was false or misleading was often in the eye of the beholder. I said that if a similar provision were applied to the Office of the President it would stifle political debate and have a catastrophic impact on our constitutional democracy.

There is hardly a news report or political commentary that does not include somewhere some statement that government might regard as false or misleading. The essence of political debate is often to determine what is, or is not, false or true. For example, the government no doubt thinks that it is false and misleading for critics to state that the Protection of State Information Bill is intended to stop the public from finding out about corruption.

Can one imagine the chilling effect on editors and commentators were they to feel the need to excise from their articles and statements anything that the government might regard as false or misleading – or face the risk of going to jail for five years?

‘But’ said Chairperson De Lange “those are the maximum penalties - and the courts would have to decide.” Indeed they would, but by that time, the journalist would have been arrested, imprisoned, released on bail and had his or her life severely disrupted.

It is for such reasons that the only limitations placed by the Constitution on freedom of expression are propaganda for war; incitement of iminent violence; and advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. The endurance of what we might regard as false and misleading attacks has always been an integral part of political debate. Those who believe that they have been maligned can sue for libel or complain to the press ombudsman. In most cases, however, they will just have to roll with the punches. Freedom of expression includes the right of others to be wrong.

Also, it is often quite legitimate to take action that might be to the detriment of government organisations. Exposure of corruption; criticism of policy; demonstrations outside government offices or wildcat strikes might all be construed as detrimental actions and thus incur draconian penalties. “Such actions” Chairperson De Lange pointed out, “would have to be unlawful, intentional or arise from negligence”. However, if such actions are unlawful their perpetrators should be prosecuted under the laws that they have broken; if they are negligent, those responsible should be sued for damages; if they are neither unlawful nor negligent, those involved might well be protected by the rights to freedom of expression and free political activity.

Government departments should not be protected by a palisade of draconian penalties from the cut and thrust of debate and legitimate political activity. The Weather Service is one of the most innocuous organs of state and it is unlikely to be the subject of political controversy. However, if the principles involved in the amendment bill were ever applied to all departments they would seriously undermine our rights to freedom of expression and free political activity.

The unacceptability of the penalty provisions in the bill is, of course, not the fault of the Weather Service. The problem lies with the government’s law advisers who should never have permitted such unconstitutional provisions to be included in what should have been an entirely innocuous piece of legislation.

In the meantime, the system functions. As Chairperson De Lange observed the purpose of the hearings was to develop the best possible legislation in the interest of all South Africans. Let’s hope that it does and that all three penalty provisions are withdrawn or made constitutionally compliant. We South Africans are fortunate to have such an open parliamentary system – and to enjoy the rights in my little pocket constitution. We must do everything we can to protect them.

Geagte belegger asook voornemede belegger van Sharemax Investments.

Prospektus nr. 17 van The Villa word tans bemark. Dit is vir ‘n bedrag van R75,0 miljoen, met ‘n aanvanklike opbrengs van 12,5% per jaar sodra die prospektus volskryf is. Tot en met gistermiddag was daar nog ruimte vir R19,8 miljoen.


Sharemax Groeiplan prospektus nr. 3 van Sharemax Bay Estate is reeds op Sharemax se webtuiste geplaas. Die prospektus is vir ‘n bedrag van R15,0 miljoen met ‘n rentekoers van 20,0% per jaar enkelvoudige rente betaalbaar aan die einde van die projek. Die gedrukte kleurprospektus behoort in volgende week beskikbaar te wees.


Dit is vir ons aangenaam om aan te kondig dat Morné Steyn, Suid-Afrika se rugbyspeler van die jaar in 2009 en losskakel van die Springbokrugbyspan ‘n belegger in The Villa word en dat hy ook sy dienste tot Sharemax Investments beskikbaar stel by saamtrekke en ander openbare geleenthede. Dit mag ook van tyd tot tyd gebeur dat sy gesig in sekere reklamegeleenthede gebruik sal word, soos en wanneer dit waarde sal toevoeg.


Sharemax Zambezi Retail Park se huurders gaan gedurende Maart 2010 en die eerste deel van April 2010 hulle onderskeie winkels betrek, waarna die streekwinkelsentrum teen 15 April 2010 operasioneel sal wees. Die amptelike opening van Sharemax Zambezi Retail Park waartydens daar groot promosies gehou gaan word, sal op Saterdag 8 Mei 2010 plaasvind.


Eerskomende Sondag, 14 Februarie 2010 neem Sharemax Investments weer deel aan ‘n program van Reise en Soetkyse op KykNet. Willie Botha , ons besturende direkteur tree in die program op. Dit word Sondag om 08:30 gebeeldsend en word ook op Dinsdag 16 Februarie 2010 en Donderdag 18 Februarie 2010 om 07:00 herhaal.

Vriendelike groete,

André Brand

Direkteur: Bemarking

Dear Sharemax Investor.

The Villa prospectus no. 17 is currently available. It is for an amount of R75,0 million, with an initial income of 12,5% per annum as soon as the prospectus has been fully subscribed. Up until yesterday afternoon there was still room for R19,8 million.

The Sharemax Bay Estate prospectus no. 3 had been placed on Sharemax website. The prospectus is for an amount of R15,0 million with an interest rate of 20,0% per annum simple interest payable at the end of the project. The printed colour prospectus should be available by next week.
It is our pleasure to announce that Morné Steyn, South Africa ’s rugby player of the year in 2009 and fly half in the Springbok rugby team has become an investor in The Villa and that he will be making his services available to Sharemax Investments at road shows and other public gatherings. It may also happen from time to time that his face is used in certain advertising opportunities, as and when it will add value.


Sharemax Zambezi Retail Park ’s tenants will occupy their respective stores in March 2010 and the early part of April 2010, after which the regional shopping centre will be operational by 15 April 2010 . The official opening of Sharemax Zambezi Retail Park , during which huge promotions will be held, will take place on Saturday 8 May 2010 .


This coming Sunday, 14 February 2010 , Sharemax Investments will once again take part in a program of the series Reise en Soetkyse on KykNet. Willie Botha, our managing director will feature in the program. It will be broadcast on Sunday at 08:30 and will be repeated on Tuesday 16 February 2010 and Thursday 18 February 2010 at 07:00 .

Kind regards,

André Brand

Director: Marketing

The Villa Retail Centre
(This document serves only as an explanation of the project which is currently being developed by Capicol 1 and is not a marketing document. Sharemax Investments has already handed in its application for the approval of the prospectus by the Registrar of Companies, which will be made available after approval thereof).
A huge shopping centre is about to rise in our midst. Gauteng will soon have access to a new shopping centre without comparison.

This shopping centre has been expertly developed and the tasteful appearance thereof will entice the public to live their shopping convenience. The developer, in cooperation with a team of experts, is striving to achieve a five star “eco-friendly” development.

The Villa has also been referred to as the “Diamond of Gauteng”. At completion it will be a true landmark in Pretoria, to service the buying public of Pretoria’s South East. The constructions costs are approximately R3 billion. It is located on the crossing of the Delmas Road and De Villabois Mareuil Street, Moreleta Park, Pretoria.

This shopping centre will consist of glass, steel and natural finishes. The size of the centre will reach 320 000m².
Big buying power

The centre’s right of existence is that it is surrounded by eleven thousand established households of a middle to higher income category, as well as 1 500 professionals who conduct their business from the adjacent office complex.
All rights, as well as statutory requirements which must be complied with have already been approved by the local authority and R95 million has been budgeted to upgrade the adjacent roads and public transport facilities.

Big interest from tenants

There is a big demand for lettable area and 50% of the centre was signed up within three months of the introduction thereof. A large amount of these tenants are national tenants with Shoprite Checkers the largest tenant with 10 500m². Other tenants include:

House & Home
Standard Bank
The Hub

Louis Vuitton
First National Bank


Dis-Chem Pharmacy
Incredible Connections
House of Coffees

Ster Kinekor

There is room for approximately 300 tenants in the centre.

For complete details concerning the tenants who have already indicated that they would like to take space in The Villa, please visit Sharemax Investments’ website at

Sharemax Investments is an authorised financial services provider with FSP number 6153.


Phone me at: 0126543504 or 0824530388

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