Our media continues to propagate the notion that some are more equal than others in SA

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Now, nearly three weeks ago, former federal chairperson of the Democratic Alliance, Athol Trollip, confessed to Eusebius McKaiser, on his 702 radio station show, that the DA had received money from Steinhoff.

In the interview, as reported by “The Citizen” in their story, “The DA did get money from Steinhoff, ‘I have no idea’ how much”, Trollip detailed how current member of parliament, Geordin Hill-Lewis, and former DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, “had gone for a fundraising interview”. He went on to point out that the DA “did get money from Steinhoff, the quantum of which [he] he had no idea, as [he did] not work with the money.”

The following day reports emerged that the DA was refusing to disclose how much Steinhoff had actually donated to the party. Party spokesperson, Solly Malatsi, according to Indepedent Online’s report, “DA refuses to disclose how much it got from fraud-tainted Steinhoff”, said that “as a policy of the party, [they] never reveal [their] donors, including the nature of the donations. This is because the majority, if not all, donors have a reasonable fear of victimisation and also prefer to maintain their privacy.”

The Citizen report continued to indicate that the furniture company, Steinhoff, had “lost over R100 billion in 48 hours due to what it described as accounting irregularities…”. It went on to describe how “…its CEO, Markus Jooste, [is] accused of involvement in what has been described as the greatest case of corporate fraud in South African history…” Poignantly, the report points out that “the company’s collapse saw an estimated 20 billion [sic] in pension money for ordinary South Africans lost.”

The story started on 3 October 2019 and by the 5 October 2019 it was no longer a story. The South African media or law enforcement agencies did not find it necessary to interrogate these claims by Trollip and have not sought the necessity to follow up on the link between the DA and Steinhoff. Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba and even Helen Zille has been used as the smokes and mirrors while the real story disappears completely from the news radar. 

In an interview with the “Whale Takes Blog” titled, “Tourism is ‘bread and butter’ of Western Cape, says Minister Winde”, in August 2012, the then economic opportunities and tourism MEC in the Western Cape and the present premier of the province, Alan Winde, sought it necessary to point out, with pride, that Steinhoff International had opened offices in Stellenbosch. No need, according to the media and law enforcement agencies, it seems to follow up on possibility of state capture in the Western Cape.

Later with the breaking of the Steinhoff saga, the DA, through its then spokesperson on finance and current MEC for finance in the Western Cape, David Maynier, chose instead to go after the auditing firm Deloitte instead of hitting Steinhoff hard. We now know why they had a different target. Even though it was Deloitte that flagged Steinhoff’s financial irregularities in the first place. One of the parliamentary committees that had been interrogating the Steinhoff saga was SCOPA; the chairpersonship of which the DA was vociferously campaigning for after this year’s elections. 

We have yet to hear of Jooste’s arrest even though four parliamentary committees were briefed that Steinhoff reported its former CEO to the Hawks on suspicions of offences against the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act.  Despite these revelations of Steinhoff, we also now know, based on the testimony of Matshepo More, the former CEO of the PIC, that Steinhoff was not in the initial sights of the evidence leader of the Commission of Inquiry into the PIC.

It is intriguing that no one in the media nor even in academia has found it peculiar that the only organization in power that is victim to state capture was the ANC. Almost every single testimony presented at the Zondo Commission figures the ANC as if state capture, as a sociological phenomenon, asks for a specific party affiliation. 

Indeed, testimony was given that Bosasa had received business from the DA-led provincial administration in the Western Cape but again, like the Steinhoff and DA link, the media and civil society just let that one go as well. It seems only the ANC, or dare we even suggest only Black people, can be captured. 

It is common cause that Steinhoff, and Mark Jooste in particular, is being investigated by the the Financial Sector Conduct Authority. Yet as some organizations have pointed out, the FSCA has not sought to raid any offices or homes of Steinhoff or Jooste, as they have done in the case of Sekunjalo Holdings. The FSCA is alleged to have raided the offices of Sekunjalo to probe allegations of irregular trading by Ayo Technology Solutions. 

This raid was followed by the revelation to members of parliament by members of the PIC board and other executives that the PIC plans to make an application to liquidate Sekunjalo over the non-repayment of a loan taken out a mere six years ago. Yet the loan was made to a special entity for the purpose of acquiring Independent Media rather than to Sekunjalo Holdings itself.  

The raid and the threat of liquidation was then followed by a new book, “Paper Tiger”, attacking Sekunjalo Holdings chairperson, Dr Iqbal Survé, and accusing him of editorial interference in the media house’s publications. Yet we have yet to hear about the DA, its links to Steinhoff and with what kid gloves Steinhoff is being treated.

There should be no doubt that there exists double standards in our media and within our law enforcement agencies. Some people get off lightly while others are victimized on the whims of flimsy rumor and innuendo. Even worst still, state institutions are used to settle personal scores while journalists are paid to write or not write stories. 

As we commemorated this Black Wednesday again, we could not help but think that confronted with the prima facie evidence in front of us, we as a nation continue to be victims of stratcom tactics. 

Meokgo Matuba is the Secretary General of the ANC Women’s League and Faiez Jacobs is an ANC Member of Parliament.