Late on Friday night, Iqbal Survé phoned Mandla Mandela, the ailing statesman’s grandson: “Tell Madiba, Independent’s coming home,” he said. “If there’s one thing that will make him get better faster, it’s this,” the younger Mandela responded.’
This is how one of Independent Newspapers’ titles told its readers in April 2013 that it had been bought by Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium for R2-billion.
The journalists of South Africa’s biggest newspaper firm, which counted The Star, Cape Times and The Mercury among its titles, were optimistic that new, local ownership would mark an end to the callous management of its Irish overlords of the previous two decades.
But the day after Nelson Mandela died, a storm engulfed the group when Survé fired Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois amid accusations of disrespect towards Mandela although many pointed to a Cape Times story about one of his companies as the real reason for his ire.
In the dramatic days that followed, Independent’s newsrooms across the country were torn apart by suspicion, recriminations and what many of the journalists believed was a witch hunt to expel those not prepared to toady to Survé.
Now Dasnois and Chris Whitfield, who was head of the Cape papers at the time of the ownership change, tell the inside story of the Survé reign.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alide Dasnois is the former editor of the Cape Times and Business Report. She has a master's degree in development economics from the Sorbonne, and is part time associate editor at GroundUp news agency based in Cape Town.
Veteran journalist Chris Whitfield is the former editor of the Cape Times, Cape Argus and Weekend Argus, and the former editor-in-chief of Independent Newspapers Cape. His first book was On Your Bike: Tips & trails for MTB riders.
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