In a devastating investigative article by Terry Bell on Tuesday on Fin24, the veteran journalist picked controversial media boss and businessman Dr Iqbal Survé’s “widely trumpeted background” apart.
Among Survé’s claims that Bell could find no evidence for was that he had been the personal physician to late former president Nelson Mandela, that he had been mentored by struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada, that he had been a successful “mind coach” to the 1996 Afcon-winning Bafana Bafana team as well as the Indian cricket team, that Cambridge University had awarded him a fellowship and that Amnesty International had given him an award.
Bell writes that he gave the media mogul – who is currently embroiled in a dispute with the equally controversial Gupta family over shares in Independent Media, South Africa’s largest English language newspaper group – an extension of three weeks to provide any supporting evidence for any of his claims. None was forthcoming, with Survé saying only that all would be revealed and backed up by the autobiography he was working on.
Everywhere Bell turned for evidence of Survé’s claims, he found only repudiation. Madiba’s actual doctor of many years, Mamphela Ramphele, had never heard of Survé. Kathrada said he’d never mentored anyone to his knowledge, members of the Bafana team said they’d never had a mind coach, and the Indian Cricket Board also claimed to have no knowledge of the man. Harvard apparently confirmed that he was an alumnus of one of their programmes, but “letters had been written” to ask Survé to “desist” from saying he is a fellow.
Amnesty International said the only South African they’d given an award to was Nelson Mandela.
Bell worked for Independent Media for many years, from 1996 to 2013, and changed jobs to work for Media24 after the group was sold to Sekunjalo Investments, of which Survé is the founder.
Bell has never hidden his disgust at what he calls the “bullies” at Independent Media who have limited journalistic freedom in their company.
Cape Argus editor Gasant Abader has described Bell’s article as a character assassination because Bell “could not find any dirt on Survé”.
Nevertheless, the quips have been flying on Twitter.
In January 2015 the company and its director Survé were accused of pro-ANC political bias in how they operated Independent News and Media SA and its subsidiary newspapers. Although there had been lingering concerns over press freedom at Independent Media following Sekunjalo’s acquisition of the company partly due to the 2014 firing of Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois and partly due to Survé’s close relationship with the ANC, the catalyst for the accusation was “group Executive Editor Karima Brown and Editor of Opinion and Analysis Vukani Mde’s decision to wear ANC colours at an ANC rally”. The accusations were first made by former Independent News columnist Max du Preez in his open resignation letter as reasons for his refusal to work for the company any longer.
Karima Brown, the Chief Content Officer of Independent Media, replied to Du Preez’s resignation letter by rejecting accusations of political bias, as their publications still featured a number of articles critical of the ANC government, claiming that Du Preez had inaccurately accused Schabir Shaik and President Jacob Zuma of pursuing a corrupt relationship, and that Du Preez and those who had supported him were motivated by racism.
Zille stated that Sekunjalo’s operation was an example of state capture that threatened both the independence of the media and the development of democracy in South Africa.
In 2012, prior to the purchase of Independent Media South Africa, Sekunjalo entered into an agreement with the Gupta family-owned Oakbay Investments to purchase 50% of the newspaper company after Sekunjalo had completed the purchase from the company’s original owner. This agreement fell through and led to a court case being brought against Sekunjalo by Oakbay.
– Additional info by Wiki