Sekunjalo condemns deliberate disinformation campaign by News24

Andre Kriel, general secretary of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Picture: Supplied

Andre Kriel, general secretary of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers Union. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 22, 2023


THE unwavering quest by opposition media houses to do anything and everything to keep alive their distorted narrative about Independent Media and the Sekunjalo Group, has reared its ugly head yet again with the recent reporting on the matter regarding the agreement between the South African Clothing Workers Union (Sactwu) and Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium (now Independent Media Consortium – IMC) in relation to the acquisition of Independent Media from its former Irish owners, nearly 10 years ago.

In a statement today Independent Media said News24 reporter Jan Cronjé’s recent piece, which attempts to keep Sekunjalo under the spotlight, was another paltry yet deliberate attempt at putting out a one-sided piece with very little context and facts, characteristic of the apartheid propaganda tactics of days gone by.

Sactwu investment facts

Setting the record straight Independent Media said: “In 2013, Sactwu requested to join IMC to purchase Independent Media with an investment of R150m. While IMC (which included Cosatu’s investment arm Kopano, the military veteran’s association, MKVA, and various women’s groups and back business groups) had already raised the R2 billion needed to finance the transaction, Sactwu believed that an investment in IMC plus an additional R250 million to establish a workers’ publication, would be in line with its other investments in the media sector. Sactwu is a shareholder in Hosken Consolidated Investments, the owners of ETV.

“A special purpose vehicle (SPV) was created for the R150m investment for 8% of Independent Media. When the final agreement was signed, Sactwu requested to change the equity into a loan of R150m, having recently suffered a severe setback as a result of a failed investment in Trilinear where they lost R400m.”

Broken Promises

The black-owned media house said Sactwu had made a promise of a further investment of R250m to R500m for the establishment of a dedicated newspaper for workers, which came to nought.

“Instead, in April 2015 Independent Media launched the World of Work, a quarterly publication which focused on labour, jobs and the political economy. The publication, while focused largely on workers’ issues, profiles on Sactwu and carried opinion pieces by Sactwu officials, received hardly any support from the Union in spite of their promise to fund its launch and salaries for the editorial team and that they would invite other Cosatu unions to participate.

“Independent Media invested approximately R100m into this project which was managed by some of the Group’s top labour and political writers including Vukani Mde, Amy Musgrave and Karima Brown. Sactwu reneged on all its promises.”

Sactwu benefits from Sekunjalo in excess of R1bn

Independent Media said Sactwu had benefitted significantly from its shareholding in various companies within the Sekunjalo Group.

“In 2017 Sactwu’s general secretary, Andre Kriel, signed an agreement to convert their investment in IMC for shares in the multi-platform company, Sagarmatha Technologies. Sactwu subsequently received 18 million preferential shares in Sagarmatha Technologies Limited at a value of almost R700m. These shares were funded by Sekunjalo through a vendor financed transaction,” the media house said.

Independent Media said the union claimed that Kriel had no authority to sign the agreement and have turned to the courts to overturn the agreement.

“With the listing of AYO Technology Solutions in 2018, Sactwu also received 12 million shares at R1.50 per share at a cost of R18m, initially funded by Sekunjalo. These shares had a value of more than R500m, almost three times the investment in Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM). Recently Sactwu requested their dividends from AYO which amounted to nearly R40m.

“Sactwu also benefitted from frequent media exposure in Independent Media publications and on IOL. The relationship between Sactwu and Sekunjalo soured with the uncovering of the R2m donation to the CR17 campaign by head of Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) Johnny Copelyn.”

Sactwu claims no funds to pay bills

News24’s recent report that Sacwtu is unable to pay its members’ pension and funeral bills is highly misleading.

Independent Media said Sactwu, was one of the country’s richest unions and further said the union had a multimillion-rand investment with Sekunjalo companies and an even bigger investment in HCI, with approximately R4bn in shares.

Sactwu and Sekunjalo partnership

“It is worth noting that, unlike most investments, Sactwu’s partnership in the media is informed by political, and not commercial, considerations.

“However, the courts must decide whether Sactwu general-secretary, Andre Kriel’s decision to convert the investment in IMC for shares in Sagarmatha, will be contractually binding on the Union or not.

“Sekunjalo is confident that the courts will uphold the contract terms of the conversion,” the company said.