Friday, September 7, 2012

Anti-MTN adverts get local gag

07 SEP 2012 00:00 - ROWAN PHILP A major US lobby group's shock advertising campaign, alleging that MTN is "profiting from torture" in Iran, has been blocked by local agencies. OUR COVERAGE US Republicans seize on MTN/Turkcell spat MTN rocked by Iran licence bribery scandal MORE COVERAGE DA calls for Minty's suspension amid MTN scandal Former Iran ambassador suspended amid MTN bribery scandal But it claims that South African advertising companies have refused to erect the billboards because of the influence of the telecoms giant. United Against Nuclear Iran, an organisation founded by the late United States ambassador Richard Holbrooke, claimed this month that MTN, which has a 49% stake in Iran's second-biggest cellphone network, has provided the regime with the means to suppress and track dissenters, some of whom are later tortured. A lawsuit filed in the US by Turkcell, MTN's rival, echoes these claims and alleges further that the company has supported Iran's illegal nuclear programme. MTN not only denies all claims of corruption and enabling oppression, but also claims that its cell service to 38-million subscribers in Iran – "many under 21 [years old]" – actually "widens political freedoms". This week, Nathan Carleton, spokesperson for the lobby group, told the Mail & Guardian that, since early May, artwork and an initial undisclosed budget was offered for the erection of billboards opposite MTN's headquarters in Gauteng. The advert shows a picture of Iranian plain-clothes officers beating a civilian with clubs, alongside the words: "MTN helps the Iranian regime terrorize and oppress its citizens." But, at least half a dozen South African advertising companies have refused to print and erect the advert, including Adreach, which called the campaign "distasteful", Media24, which cited a conflict of interest in its business with MTN, and Outdoor Media, which said it even feared for its staff's safety, owing to "potential retaliation from other parties". Only Alliance Media is still considering running the campaign. Carleton said its US campaign had already turned some potential US business partners against MTN. But, he said: "We wanted to bring the campaign 'home' to South Africa ... where the vast majority of MTN's employees and customers would be appalled to know the full extent of MTN's alliance with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. Rebuffed "We made it clear to our representatives that we were ready to pay the regular or even the premium rate for this billboard, but we were rebuffed each time. We tried for months, but clearly MTN's presence in South Africa and its advertising prowess have caused a chilling effect on what can be published about it." In 2010, United Against Nuclear Iran succeeded in forcing equipment conglomerate Caterpillar to withdraw its subsidiary involvement in Iran following a similar and highly successful billboard "shame campaign" in the US. The lobby group claimed a subsidiary's equipment was being used to bore tunnels for Iran's nuclear facilities. One giant billboard that faced its headquarters in Illinois in the US stated, next to a picture of a Caterpillar crane: "Today's work. Tomorrow's nuclear Iran?" A US advertising agent, who asked not to be named, said hundreds of thousands of rands had been made available for the launch of the anti-MTN campaign in South Africa. The lobby group recently stepped up its war against MTN with a string of new condemnations, including outraged editorials on the fact that MTN sought assistance from the US government to extract its profits from Iran. Last Friday, Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and now the lobby group's chief executive, called MTN "a direct threat to US national security interests" and called on the White House to impose sanctions on the company. "It is unacceptable that MTN, a complicit partner of the Iranian regime, is still able to raise capital in the US and has not had its assets and property blocked by the US government," said Wallace. Offensive Paul Norman, a spokesperson for MTN, said: "The adverts are meant to shock, are offensive to MTN employees and malicious. MTN denounces this advert and United Against Nuclear Iran's efforts to place it on billboards in South Africa. MTN is considering how best to address the issue, including legal action." Cherne Botes, country specialist for Alliance Media, said a 4.5m-by-18m billboard on the Soweto ­highway had been set aside for the advert, but another company had taken the space after delays in getting the lobby group's graphic. Simon Haskell, a director with Outdoor Advertising, admitted that his company had declined the campaign partly because it feared for the safety of its staff and equipment. He said: "MTN is a client of ours and has been for more than five years. We felt it unethical to turn on it in this manner." Haskell said he was also worried about accuracy and fairness: "Although we understood the message of the campaign, we were not sure of the facts." Mark Castel, national sales manager for Adreach, said he refused the advert immediately because it was offensive: "We think the content of the advert will be distasteful to the South African public and … it probably amounts to hate speech." Castel denied any pressure from MTN to reach this decision, saying: "MTN is not a large customer of ours. It accounts for less than 0.3% of our turnover, so the suggestion that we are protecting income is wrong." Carleton said the lobby group had lodged an official complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, alleging that its campaign was being unfairly sabotaged. Said Norman: "MTN has no involvement with human rights abuse in Iran. It does not condone or support the use of technology by any government to oppress its citizens. It has no knowledge of, or involvement in, any alleged or illegal activity by the Iranian government nor security authorities." Fred Makgato, head of legal affairs for the Advertising Standards Authority, said the agency could not comment on the advert until it was flighted and complaints were received. "Corporate or media houses have the choice whether to flight an advert or not. Recently, we have seen the SABC and Multichoice refusing to accept advertising from Nando's due to its sensitivity on xenophobia," Makgato said. Mail & Guardian News National Clean slate: Kgalema Motlanthe draws election line 31 AUG 2012 00:00 - CHARLES MOLELE, MATUMA LETSOALO Insiders say that Kgalema Motlanthe is prepared to run for the ANC's presidency, but not on behalf of any faction that hopes to trade on his success. OUR COVERAGE Mangaung Part 1: Motlanthe flexes his muscles Decoding Kgalema: Enigmatic pretender to the throne Tokyo, Kgalema fuming over Zuma's oily move Deputy President Kga­lema Motlanthe has told an ANC faction lobbying for him to challenge Jacob Zuma as ANC president that he would only accept a nomination if it was not aligned to slates, the Mail & Guardian has learnt. ANC sources close to the anti-Zuma campaign said this week Motlanthe made it clear at a meeting, dubbed the "Malibongwe gathering", that he was not prepared to be associated with slates – lists of candidates for election drawn up by sparring factions – because they were the main cause of division in the party. The infamous practice was evidenced in the run-up to the watershed ANC conference in Polokwane where Zuma defeated former ANC president Thabo Mbeki. Many believe that the slates, which sideline factional opponents, is what led to the maginalisation of some of the party's best brains simply because they supported the losing faction. This has weakened the party, particularly in terms of policy and the implementation of key ANC programmes to deal with unemployment, poverty and inequality. Motlanthe, who has not declared his availability, is said to be determined to undo the legacy of Polok­wane and put a stop to slates in the ANC. He believes that candidates' election should be based on their capabilities. Those associated with the Mali­bongwe meeting include Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sex­wale, ANC treasurer Matthews Phosa, Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. No confidence in Zuma "The guys [ANC leaders] went to Kgalema to say they no longer have confidence in President Zuma's leadership and that they wanted him to take over. He [Motlanthe] agreed, but made it clear that he does not want to be in a slate. It was agreed in the meeting that slates will not work. The only thing we should focus on is the position of president. "We are not married to other positions. We all agreed that this man [Zuma] was not fit to be president. The forces will align under Kgalema. If we did not agree [with Motlanthe's position], it would look like we were just another bunch of powermongers," said an ANC leader, who asked not to be named. Motlanthe has repeatedly condemned the use of slates at ANC elective conferences at all levels in the party. "The emergence of slates within our organisational culture and the processes represent the worst form of corruption of the spirit, character and vision of the organisation," Motlanthe told delegates at the Limpopo conference in Polokwane last December. "The time has come for all of us in the ANC to condemn the slate culture to the dustbin of history. Stealing away the voice of members through slates, buying of votes and treating the ordinary membership as voting fodder … serves no other purpose than to corrupt the organisation." The M&G understands that, following the Malibongwe meeting, a number of ANC leaders said they were prepared to allow an inclusive selection of leaders in the ANC during nomination. Mbalula is said to be prepared even to accept the position of deputy secretary general to allow policy guru and ANC national executive committee member Joel Netshitenzhe to take over as secretary general, which Gauteng is punting. Some branches in Ethekwini and on the Lower South Coast, KwaZulu-Natal's two key regions, want transport MEC Senzo Mchunu to be elected as the second deputy secretary general. Unity and continuity The issue of having two deputy secretary generals was discussed at the recent ANC policy conference, but it has yet to be adopted as policy. The Eastern Cape is expected to punt ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to be deputy president, a position for which Phosa and Sexwale have also been proposed. On the other hand, the pro-Zuma faction believes all the current national officials should be retained in their respective positions for the sake of unity and continuity. "Why should Kgalema contest? He can remain as deputy president. The leadership collective must continue as it is. There is nothing wrong for Kgalema to stand in 2017. This will be good for the centenary. There will be stability in the organisation. "JZ accommodated the faction that did not support him, including Sexwale and Mashatile, who were included in his Cabinet. JZ is not using patronage. If that was the case, Mbalula and Sexwale would have been long gone," said an ANC leader in Gauteng. Zuma enjoys solid support in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal as well as the Free State and Mpumalanga. Motlanthe has the backing of the Northern Cape, North West, Limpopo, the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. A senior ANC leader in Gauteng said: "The deputy president is right to condemn slates. The ANC is at a crossroads at the moment because of slates. The majority of the 85 national executive committee members elected in Polokwane were elected based on slates. "We're now having quantity instead of quality leadership. The slates go hand in hand with money. It is an alien culture in the ANC. The wrong forces have stolen the soul of the ANC. We need organisational renewal in order to restore the core values of the ANC, such as selflessness, discipline, accountability, openness and revolutionary morality. The ANC must be seen to be walking the talk. Renewal must be wholesale. It must not be piecemeal." But Motlanthe's spokesperson, Thabo Masebe, denied that the deputy president had attended the Mali­bongwe meeting to discuss nomin­ations. "The deputy president has not spoken to anybody. He understands the processes of the ANC. He has not been nominated. He does not know if he is being nominated. He can't engage with anyone. He understands that nomination starts at a particular time." MAIL & GUARDIAN Malema's office in Luthuli House burgled: report Sapa | 01 July, 2012 10:34 Suspended ANC Youth League President Julius Malema in Rocklands, Bloemfontein. File photo. The office which former ANCYL leader Julius Malema used to occupy at ANC headquarters was broken into last week. SAVE & SHARE EMAILPRINT The Sunday Independent reports that books and files were taken from his office, and his former personal assistant Moshala Mothiba's computer was stolen, from Luthuli House in central Johannesburg, apparently while the ANC was holding its policy conference in Midrand. "The incident happened while the people were at (the policy) conference," police spokeswoman Inspector Lorraine van Emmerik told the newspaper. She said police were investigating a case of business robbery. The paper quoted unnamed sources saying that the door had not been forced open, and that the computer contained information on the daily running of the league. Malema was expelled from the ANC earlier this year and barred from entering any of the party's offices. Comments by Sonny Someone should explore the possibility that Chancellor/LUTHULI House may have shares in MTN. Kgalema Motlanthe will be please of this publication ban. Were the 'Burglars' perhaps looking for the MTN/Iran files?

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