Independent Media, South Africa’s second-largest media company, has launched a covert campaign to depose President Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC leader in December.

The plan, dubbed Operation Hlanza, which means “cleanse” or “cleanse,” was shared with senior editors and political journalists from the group, which owns titles such as IOL, The Star, The Mercury, and Cape Argus, at a closed-door meeting in Durban on Monday.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of the ANC was a disaster for the fourth estate, and it was a season of decline for Independent Media.

“Over the past five years, Ramaphosa and his cabal have tried every trick in the book to shut down Sekunjalo Holdings, the target was and remains Independent Media,” writes Mahlangu in the Operation Hlanza document’s “context” section.

“The country’s number one [Ramaphosa] has been irritated by Independent Media’s transformative stance and brand of news. Following extensive efforts to co-opt, persuade, and silence our newsrooms, his final hand will be to permanently shut down Independent Media, utilising banks, the judiciary, state organs, and wherever his reach extends “The document continues:

This election is critical for both the Republic and the Independent Media.
Former President Jacob Zuma has recently thrown his support behind Dlamini-Zuma in her bid to defeat Ramaphosa.

Independent Media, owned by businessman Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo group and funded by loans from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and two Chinese state-owned companies, has targeted Ramaphosa in its titles, but this is the first official proof of a coordinated campaign by a media house to depose the president.

Survé’s ownership has caused the group to withdraw from the Press Council of South Africa, which self-regulates local journalism through the Press Ombudsman’s office. The company established its own “press code,” as well as an internal ombudsman.

According to Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, “all media houses in the exercise of their constitutionally enshrined rights are expected to do their work in a non-partisan, objective, fact-based manner that does not harm any citizen’s right or impugn the image or character of any individual.”

A Survé family trust owns Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, a holding company with interests in technology, fishing, media, and medicine. Independent Media is one of its subsidiaries.

Survé and Sekunjalo announced in July this year that they had applied to review the findings of the Mpati Commission, which had investigated alleged impropriety at the PIC. In March 2020, the inquiry’s 995-page final report was released.

Survé and Sekunjalo want the courts to rule that the president’s commission of inquiry reached conclusions that were “unjustified and inconsistent” with the evidence before it. They have requested that the court order the commission to “expunge” all findings concerning Sekunjalo entities.

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