Independent Media has made at least four people in its management ranks redundant over the weekend.
Iqbal Survé is executive chair of Independent Media and Sekunjalo. (Image: The Media Online
Business Day has reliably learnt that Western Cape managing editor Martine Barker was escorted out of the group's Cape Town offices on Friday and that outspoken Cape Times executive editor Tony Weaver has been made redundant.
Packages were given to Western Cape circulation manager Graham Shaw and Gauteng counterpart Pierre Joubert. They have already left. This comes on top of the resignations, and immediate departures of The Star Editor Makhudu Sefara and of The Mercury Editor Philani Mgwaba late last month.
Former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois was formally dismissed last week after being found guilty in a company internal disciplinary hearing. She has taken her case to the Labour Court.
In Weaver, Independent will lose an award-winning journalist.
Sefara was crowned editor of the year in the Standard Bank Sikuvile Awards in May, when Weaver won the prize for his Man Friday columns in support of Dasnois, who won the South African National Editors' Forum Nat Nakasa award for courageous journalism last month - after her suspension.
These editors and senior management departures follow the resignations of a number of senior journalists over the past six months.
Requests for comment were referred to Independent's deputy group executive chair, Tony Howard, who did not respond to phone and e-mail messages.
The transfer of Independent Media's ownership from its former Irish owners to the consortium headed by Sekunjalo Investments occurred almost a year ago. A condition of the R2bn deal set by the Competition Commission was that no retrenchments would take place for 12 months after the transactions. Iqbal Survé is executive chair of Independent Media and Sekunjalo.
However, there could be further upheaval at the newspaper's titles amid restructuring and reorganisation in management, administration, and editorial functions. In a confidential communiqué from Dr Survé to his top managers, which Business Day has seen, he announced the movement of editors.
"I am also of the view that editors need to be moved from their existing titles to others within the group," he said. "This is common practice internationally and in business. It also represents an opportunity for the geographic relocation of title editors. Therefore, I will be having conversations with title editors and business unit heads over the next few months to discuss relocation from your existing titles to other titles or relocation to content hubs or relocation in other strategic business units."
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As a former Cape Times journalist, it saddens me deeply to see award-winning journalists being dismissed or made redundant. It is also sad for me to note that the editorial integrity and quality of this newspaper has declined steadily since Iqbal made his appearance. I have no doubt that in due course, the illustrious name of the Cape Times will be muddied with accusations that it has become no more than a propaganda vehicle for the deeply corrupt ANC party.
Another sad day for what was an iconic newspaper group. As a PR Consultant for the past 33 years, I have been dealing with editors and journalists alike from even pre-Independent Newspaper days and had only the greatest admiration for the editorial integrity and professionalism of those with whom I dealt. Alide Dasnois was one such special editor. It was pretty obvious that when ANC stalwart Iqbal Surve took over the titles would all become mouthpieces of the ruling party-one by one. What a tragedy for press freedom and for the future of journalistic independence in this country!! First the SABC, then the Gupta's New Age, now the fall of the oldest remaining daily newspaper in South Africa, the Cape Times, along with its sister titles. I weep for the future of the free press in South Africa.
It is sad that the purchase of Independent Media and this self-serving political agenda will just add more ammunition to the doom sayers. It is a pity that honest journalism is confused with hidden agendas and a 'third force'. The real ANC, which sadly passed away years ago, would (I believe) have welcomed the exposure of corruption in their ranks and got rid of those members. But then again dealing with corruption starts with the 'head of the household'.
If business/people truly cared they would stop placing adverts and/or buying Independent papers
This is insane. I'd dealt with Tony Weaver just recently and came away with only positive impressions of his professionalism and approachability! All the best Tony, and to all the other Independent staff.
So very, very sad. Good luck, Tony Weaver. Enjoyed working with you and your colleagues when I was Political Correspondent for Independent titles a couple of years ago. So glad I left before the real madness began. And there we were thinking the lack of newsroom investment during the O'Riley years was the worst thing to happen to the Group. Little did we know then that Survey would come along and systematically strip the papers of what journalistic integrity remained. Also sad that SA media is a small pool and therefore some quality media people being shunned may not find new homes. My advise to you: hard working SA journalists are sought after at international news organisations across the globe. Again, all the best.
As an insider working at the independent group it is a sad, sad time for everyone. The best people have already left and what few remain are simply trying to find a way to find work elsewhere. Circulations have dropped and the only people left are inexperienced or without options. It is inevitable that some great newspapers are going to close sooner rather than later and the South African landscape will be poorer for it. Internal intimidation is rife. However, the good news is that the demise of the IN group surely leaves a gap for a credible publication that could take advantage of the amazing talent out there looking for a job. In everything, even this, there is opportunity.