The Measure Of A Democracy Is Defending The Rights Of Those You Despise – MultiChoice/ANN7

By Pinky Khoabane

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LET’s get the lies out of the way so that we can address the real dangers of monopolies, monopoly power, censorship and the powerlessness of the ruling ANC government against monopolies, that are playing-out in the decision by Multichoice not to renew its contract with ANN7 when it expires in August 2018.

The satellite television provider announced yesterday that ANN7 would be removed from DSTV’s platform following a public outcry by those who despise the Guptas and by extension, the television channel that they once owned.

Multichoice has given no clear reasons for its decision except for a great deal of waffle about “mistakes” that were made, “due diligence” that wasn’t done and “in light of the ongoing controversies it won’t be appropriate to renew ANN7’s current contract when it ends in August”. What these controversies are is not clear. It’s not clear whether they relate to allegations of state capture by the Guptas or allegations that Multichoice paid ANN7 R25m and the SABC over R100m to influence government’s digital migration policy in favour of Multichoice and to maintain its monopoly power in the pay-tv sector.

Firstly, we need to place in context the calls to shut down ANN7. They don’t emanate from last year’s allegations of corruption against the Guptas. The battle started when news broke that people of a darker skin  shade and who were aligned to the ANC, were entering the media industry.

We have to understand what the media industry is – it is a battleground for shaping people’s views on life. The media is a tool through which the powerful decide what and how we must think about the world. In protecting their turf, media employ a combination of tactics, including straightforward propaganda and scare mongering.

The narrative that we should be afraid of the Gupta family, which owned The New Age and ANN7, and the Sekunjalo consortium, led by Dr Iqbal Survé, which bought the Independent Group, started before these two groups opened doors to the public. The plethora of allegations of corruption against Gupta-linked companies have not helped dispel the narrative that the Guptas are dangerous people who need to be shut down.

The decision by Multichoice comes in the week where on one hand, we heard shocking allegations of the Gupta’s influence on government tenders and cabinet reshuffles and on the other, how Steinhoff manipulated their financial reports resulting in, among others, the government’s pension fund losing R20 billion in one month. I’m yet to hear calls of a shut-down of Steinhoff and the companies linked to its former Chairman Christo Wiese or the many Rupert-linked companies that have been exposed for anti-competitive behaviour by the Competition Commission. There’s no outrage because commercial media, which serve the interests of capitalists, presents this crime as “collusion” which is “private” and unlike that committed by the public sector, should really go unpunished as it doesn’t affect citizens. What they omit to tell citizens is how price fixing – on bread and everything else – has a direct bearing on their purse strings and their livelihoods.

It has been reported that there are several complaints lodged against the Guptas and that the criminal justice system is moving swiftly to deal with the allegations of corruption levelled against them. Steinhoff also announced it had reported its former CEO Markus Jooste to the Hawks. These developments are welcomed. If there are crimes committed let these people face the music.

Some sections of the public  including some journalists called for the removal of ANN7 from the DSTV platform long before information of the amount paid by Multichoice to ANN7 surfaced. The allegations of corruption by the Guptas, apparently contained in the so-called GuptaLeaks, laid the perfect foundation for the public’s demand to have ANN7 removed from the DSTV bouquet and threats to cancel subscriptions if this wasn’t done.

An anchor on Radio702 justified Multichoice’s decision on the grounds that ANN7 was established purely for propaganda purposes by those who wanted to loot the state. This anchor would like us to believe it was never about the diversity of voices, pluralism or the maintenance of a healthy democracy.

There’s also talk that ANN7 benefitted from the proceeds of crime as justification for the shut down.

Contrast this call to the deafening silence to Naspers’ historical links to apartheid, from which it did not only benefit politically but profited financially too. It did not only benefit from advertising revenue from the Nationalist Party government but it also benefitted from printing the apartheid government’s text books. Ironically, the same applies today – with the help of brothers of some of the comrades in cabinet – a printing company linked to Naspers is raking-in millions in printing text books for democratic SA.

In the 1980’s Naspers was awarded the rights to start SA’s first pay tv MNET which would launch it into the trillion rand business that it is today. Its wealth stems from what its former chairman Ton Voslo described as “complicity in a morally indefensible political regime”.

But these facts accompanied by allegations of Multichoice’s influence on government policy so as to entrench its dominance in the industry seemingly don’t matter in the context of state capture, corruption and crime. Multichoice made the mistake of not heeding early, the calls to shut down ANN7. We would not know about the million rand payments and allegations of corruption now levelled against it.

Glaring, is the hypocrisy of those who claim to protect the Bill of Rights, which includes the right to freedom of speech, media freedom and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms, which means the rights of those who despise ANN7 are equal to the rights of those who love the television channel.

There are many of these protectors of our rights, starting with the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) and other NGOs which have mounted massive campaigns in the past years in the protection of the Constitution. These advocates of democracy are however, highly selective; choosing their campaigns carefully – for or against – depending on the political agenda of those for whom they will march for or against. SANEF has released a rather meek response to this issue having turned a blind eye in the past, to threats to journalists that the media industry doesn’t like.

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) it must be said, were quick to defend ANN7’s right to air at the initial stages of the call to have the news channel removed from the bouquet of offerings by DSTV, but I did not see their response to the latest decision by Multichoice.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

DSTV subscribers have a choice to whatever channels they wish and they can exercise that choice and not watch ANN7. Similarly, those who want to watch ANN7 should be allowed the freedom to do so.

Citizens have the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without interference or limitations from anyone.

Citizens have a right to speak, publish, read and view what they wish, worship (or not worship) as they wish, associate with whomever they choose, and demonstrate against what they perceive to be wrong doing. This they must do within the law – South Africans can speak and publish whatever they wish for as long as it does not constitute hate speech and those demonstrations are peaceful and do not cause harm to anyone.

Censorship has no place in a democracy

When Multichoice decides that we cannot watch ANN7 because a section of its subscribers object to it, we are treading on very shaky ground.

The American Library Association describes censorship thus: “Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups, or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, ‘Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!’ Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else”.

This case has once again exposed the ANC ruling party’s failure to address and enforce that media in this country is transformed and diversified to include the broader spectrum of our society and diverse voices. The ruling party has failed to address the issue of monopolies – having dilly-dallied since the advent of democracy, the ANC of today even struggles to accept that white monopoly exists. Fortunately, in the face of these denials, monopoly power always rears its head in the form of cases such as the Multichoice decision to shut down ANN7 and the many incidents of anti-competitive behaviour by monopolies as exposed by the Competition Commission.

Here’s the complete statement by MultiChoice https://www.multichoice.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/31/multichoice-statement-31january2018.pdf?platform=hootsuite

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  1. Cde PK we essentially seem to be in agreement over the role of the delegates and the fact that we have to accept the outcome of our internal processes. My comment was simply to highlight the fact that the grouping which emerged victorious at NASREC was the one which is apologetic to WMC and that being the case, that development had seemed to embolden the far-right.
    Without being seen to be trying curtail further discussion of this topic , can I suggest that we explore other equally important issues. You Cde PK have already done a lot in that regard by posting useful articles ( for example ) on our African queens, on cultural issues etc. These have proved to be very insightful. Your article on the controversial film “Inxeba” is a case in point.
    Can I suggest one possible article. Who was around when we struck by that terrible skin disease which was commonly called “lekker krap” . The symptoms were such that the whole body would itch and relief could only be archieved through one scratching oneself feverishly all over the body, hence the name “lekker krap” which is Afrikaans for “nice , soothing scratch/rub ” ( Could those comrades who are more conversant in Afrikaans assist with translation ) . What was the cause: I really dont know but those of us in the sprawling townships believed that our white oppressors had put some chemical in mealie meal as a way of making African men infertile and our woman folk barren .
    This but one example of the rich history of country ( painful as it was ) which we must document for future generations. Bekunzima elokishini!

  2. Cde Pk while I agree that we , as members of the ANC , have to respect the decision of the majority , that does not mean that we must also deprive ourselves the democratic right to advance our views on the state of affairs in the organisation . Those of us who seek to make a difference in our country through public analysis of the prevailing situation are enjoined to criticise even if such criticism is directed at those within the ranks of the organisation . Some will concur with our views while others will reject them and advance alternative arguements. Such is the nature of democratic engagement. Needless to say , emotion will from time to time creep in . That too is a natural phenomenon which we must however seek to exorcise from our thought processes.
    Coming back to comment made by myself on 3 February together with Cde Mzilikazi’s and your response thereto , I wish to advance the following thesis:
    The National Conference of 2017 took place against the background of a deepning of the debate regarding the nature of monopoly capital within the South African context. This debate took place both within and outside of the ANC. It is now a matter of historical record that Cde Ramaphosa led the grouping within the ANC which sought to deny the fact that monopoly capital within the South African context was white. That view coincided with the views of our political adversaries sitting in the opposition benches , led by the DA. It is also a matter of historical record that some of those within the ANC who denied the existence of WMC also enjoyed a degree of tolerance by our adversaries in the DA and by agents of WMC. Hard as it might be to accept this political and historical reality , our newly-elected president of the ANC was and remains one of those who enjoy such level of tolerance.
    During the difficult years of the national liberation struggle the ANC was commonly referred to as ” a broad church “. This label emanated from the fact that the organisation drew its membership from a very broad spectrum of activists and supporters , including nationalist , communists, trade unionists, religious denominations , tribal leaders etc. All were united in the common purpose of overthrow of the racist minority regime and the establishment of a democratic , non racial and non sexist South Africa. It was against this background that the ANC won the first democratic elections in 1994 with a landslide.
    Post 1994 , there emerged contestation within the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance over direction of political and economic policy. The nature of such contestation was so intense that it was bound to lead to a fissure and eventually an eruption which seeks to tear the organisation down the middle. That fissure remains a permanent feature of internal debates and contestation .Sad and unfortunate such situation might be , it is the harsh reality which confronts all ANC members. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise.
    I do not wish to go into a long discussion on the circumstances surrounding the last two ANC national conferences in 2007 and 2017. Suffice to say that in both circumstances we must accept that it was the delegates who voted in the respective leaders. Given that reality , I agree that the decision of our delegates must be respected.
    Comrades and you our dear leaders, let us continue to make a meaningful contribution to the economic , political and social democratic development of our country. Given the situation in our country and within the organisation , emotions are bound to rise from time to time. Let us take up the difficult challenge of striving always to keep such out of discussion. We are Uncensored Opinion and such we strive to promote tolerance and diversity of views. Let us lead by example. We dare not fail.

  3. We are the victims of the WMC, directly affected and unfortunately those who are supposed to protect us are captured by the same monsters who are destroying the lives of the poor South Africans. ABI/SABMiller including Mercedes Benz are exploiting our people daily and just because they are funding everyone including our government including our political leaders, everyone is turning a blind eye.

    To me ALL the so called Leaders are the same, heartless same as these monsters who are destroying our lives including our local media. These Multinationals companies are exploiting our people daily and No One Cares. We the Poor Of this Country are being used by political leaders for their own gain, they are all the same and don’t care about us.

    WMC wont stop what they are doing as they have captured all those who call themselves the honest ones. As much they put pressure on our president, accusing him of being captured by the Guptas, what about those who are captured by SABMiller, Coca Cola/ABI including Mercedes Benz?

    Not even those leaders who are well knows as vocal and powerful failed us, all of them from the EFF, ANC,DA, COPE just to mention the few – they are afraid of exposing these heartless monsters but can only mention them by name only. So if they preach that they are clean and Zuma is dirty, so why cant they expose these monsters who destroyed us and our families? Some of our affected members committed suicide, some are homeless and their assets are taken daily, it doesn’t matter whether the poor blacks are paying or not.

  4. I fully agree with cmde Greg that the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as the ANC President has embolden the far right and the WMC stooges like EFF. UDM, ACDP, FFP AND THEIR LEADER DA the ANC counter-revolutinists like Paul Mashatile.
    Now the WMC “investors” have the freedom to choose who must be fired from which Company.
    And that is why these counter-revolutinists are on an overdrive to get rid of President Zuma. Their masters in London and Washington see this as an opportunity not to be missed to get rid of their enemy who works for the poor. They want a Puppet who will maintain the Status Quo where black people are servants of Whites. I am not voting a WMC captured in 2019. If no new Patriotic Pro Poor Black Political Party is formed before 2019, I am abstaining from voting. And that is exactly what the opposition want.A weak ANC.But I will not vote the ANC which is a DA with another name.
    If you have seen the Kangaroo Courts they call Parliamentary Oversight Committees these days.You will know what I talking about. Everybody follows DA’s hostility towards patriotic black South Africans and very friendly and useless questioning of White Criminals. If you watched Steinhoff appearance in Parliament last week, you know what I am saying. Ramaphosa must be defeated or we are back to square one.

    1. Most of us conveniently have short memories. President Jacob Zuma invited Cyril Ramaphosa back into politics to thwart attempts by Motlanthe to challenge him as President. It is President Zuma who called the same Ramaphosa who is demonised for being WMC stooge to join his team – nothing has changed about Ramaphosa. He remains the capitalist that he was and those who wanted NDZ to win didnt have a problem with him all these years until he ran for president.
      The ANC went to Conference in December and Ramaphosa won. Let’s stop dividing the ANC and calling for a defeat of Ramaphosa when we were not able to do it at the Conference.
      This is a free country and those who dont want to vote for the ANC are free to do so. The ANC was never a pro-poor black political party -let’s stop fooling ourselves. If it was, it would have had the African centred programmes and there would have been real change for the African in the last 24 years.
      More importantly, let’s stop undermining the decision of the delegates of the branches who decided to forge unity and turn their backs against slates.
      The inward focus of the ANC will be the death of this organisation and the return of white rule. It is sad that Africans spend all their time fighting each other instead of the real enemy. This weekend was some farce called the People’s Tribunal or something to that effect where among others was information on the money stolen by apartheid – if the Africans who spend the time fighting each other spent a tenth of their time on the money stolen by apartheid operatives with the WMC paraded today, I would have more respect for them.

  5. Given the tensions in the ANC and the manner in which the agents of imperialism (ie DA, EFF, UDM and the NGOs) seek to exploit them, I believed that it would be prudent for us ANC members to seek to promote the unity and cohesion of the organization. However, events such as the actions of Multichoice and our government’s and our organization’s muted response forces one to have no alternative other than to break out of this particular stance. Apart from the comments made by Deputy Secretary-General Cde Jessie Duarte, the blatant assault on press freedom by Multichoice has been virtually condoned by our organisation.

    The comments of Minister of Communications Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane leave a lot to be desired, to say the least. One could not help but get the feeling that she spoke as one who was nervously looking over her shoulder, seeking direction from someone behind the scenes.

    The question which arises as a result of the above can perhaps be crafted as follows :

    1. Has the alignment within the ANC and within the Tripartite Alliance been such that it has had the effect of emboldening the far-right in our country?
    2. Has the emergence in particular of a very pro-business cadre as leader of the ANC given a coded signal to the most politically backward elements in South Africa to launch a vicious and merciless onslaught against the National Democratic Revolution?

    3. Has the new ANC leadership and their allies carefully and in a very sober manner reflected on the real balance of forces both within the ANC and within the organization’s vast electoral base?

    Although my contribution to the struggle was minuscule as compared to that of thousands of other cadres, I nonetheless did also strive throughout to make a meaningful contribution. l did so because I believed, like millions of people then, that the ANC was the only organization which could bring about genuine national liberation to our country. The principle of democratic centralism notwithstanding, I am increasingly beginning to feel that our organization is slowly but gradually being co-opted, very much like the EFF, UDM and COPE, into an instrument of neo-imperialism.

    Difficult as it might be to admit to this reality , I have never ever felt so depressed at the state of affairs in our organisation as a result of the political trajectory that it has taken. Neo imperialists (even within the organisation) can rejoice; I shall not join them in such celebrations.

    1. Cde Greg

      As one who doesn’t watch news or read newspapers, I have seen the condemnation of Minister of Communications by many but have not read her statement.

      As for the ANC in general, the public spat between Cdes Ace Magashule and Bheki Cele so unbecoming….



  6. This very sad. I thought diversity in the media was welcomed. Following the story of Multichoice and it’s decision about ANN7 reminded me of the Ducth East India Company that was the 1st company to have a trading monopoly. It was founded in 1602 and was the first company to deal in bonds and shares. The result of these type of companies was colonialism and enslavement of the inhabitants of a country where they deemed necessary to stay as an advancement of the company. Due to collusion with the Dutch authorities, the Company has a monopoly in the trade to the East for more than hundred years. Does that sound familiar? Think of all the evergreen contracts, collusions between companies and industries…

  7. Moss’s comment is an affirmation of this growing problem in our infant democracy, namely that of trial by allegation. This is in fact not a new tactic that is being used to crush those whose views one does not agree with. The racist regime used false information and propaganda to sow confusion in the ranks of the liberation movement. One example of use of such tactic was the false information which was planted by the notorious Vlakplaats operative Joe Mamasela which led to the gruesome killing of our cadre Makie Skhosana through the so-called “necklace” method in Tsakane. They even managed to infiltrate some of their own agents into our camps and facilities with a view towards causing confusion in our ranks.
    As Cde PK says I would suggest that Moss approaches the nearest police station to lay charges against AAN7 if he has information of wrong doing. As for myself, I choose to await the outcome of the state capture commission and the conclusion of other ongoing investigative processes.

    1. I was about to respond and then saw Cde Klaas’s comment. No further comment My Comrade, he’s succinctly put what I wanted to say.

  8. We may differ but don’t have to demonise each other. Those who have a different view have a right to hold such opposing perspectives. We are not enemies for having a different view.

    Voltter once said: – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    Such traits should be nipped in the butt. For struggle is far from over. AlutaContinua!!!

  9. I have lost all hope in the ANC as demonstrated once more by this matter. Are these the people that resolved to implement Radical Economic Transformation during their Dec17 Elective Conference? All this happening under their watch – it’s a disgrace. We have resolved to boycott DSTV and terminate our premium subscription come 21Aug18 if ANN7 is removed. The ANC must also be careful not to loose our vote come 2019 because of such matters. I know that’s exactly what the opposition wants, but really now the ANC no longer deserves our votes – too much capitulating to business and elite’s interests. Very dissapointed in this decision – we love ANN7 and its propaganda, it’s our right to choose. We reject the other channels.

    1. Being brought up in a pan africanist family, I doubted the ANC would ever truly provide liberation but the factional battles in the pan africanist movement have obliterated it from political landscape so much so I realised there was no choice. A strong legitimate opposition is what is required – the EFF has sadly disappointed but the ANC’s response to some of the policies which they brought to the fore – land expropriation for example, have now been taken seriously. I fear that the ANC will lose voters as a complete rejection of the direction its taking. The party to watch is that of my dear Comrade Themba Godi, it is small and speaks to what the people want. I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter ask him for membership.

  10. ANN7 is nothing but the for Toll that used by JZ and his Gupta friends. Well struggle in country was National Democratic Struggle. I don’t remember guptas tv ever promote that.

    1. Moss, you are within your rights to hold that opinion. It however doesn’t give you or MultiChoice the right to close it down because you dont like what it says. Many of you are struggling to grasp this simple issue of rights to freedom of speech, media freedom.

      But I see you have failed to address the question that I raised in your earlier comment – for proof of wrongdoing and why you have not asked for the shut down of Naspers given the blood in which it swims. Please stop obfuscating and brining up new issues before simply answering this one.

    1. If it is, there has been no evidence I’ve heard but I’m not the best person to attest or not as I hardly read commercial media. If you have it please provide it and report it to the police. Multichoice in its statement doesn’t refer to any crime committed by itself or ANN7.

      In the article, I ask why some of you dont ask the same question of Naspers which benefitted from apartheid – a system which the United Nations described as a crime against humanity. Naspers’ former chairman called it an immoral system and apologised for the atrocities. Will you please return and tell me if you have asked this question and if not, why not!

  11. Great article Cde PK! In fact I was working on article on the same topic when I saw yours popping into my inbox. I am very disappointed in Multichoice. Their action can only be described as a stab in the back by the accomplices of right-wingers and fascists. Not only have they betrayed our constitutional values and our Bill of Rights, but they have also done a lot of reputational damage to themselves by taking us back to the darkest days of apartheid. They will surely reap what they have sown.

    1. Thank you dear Cde Greg. You know what they say about great minds thinking alike. Hahaha.

      I’m finding SA really depressing on most days. The erosion of hard fought freedoms by the oppressor in collusion with comrades is just too hard to take. Multichoice’s decision is despicable but it goes to the core of the danger of monopolies and their power.

      Like many of the stories of state capture, I hope that it isn’t true that Multichoice paid the millions to maintain its dominance because it would go against exactly what we are today defending – pluralism, diverse voices and the right of ANN7 to exist.

      And perhaps I should have left this article to you because I find it exceedingly difficult to defend the rights of one entity when there are claims that it was involved in sustaining everything for which Im against – white monopoly capital. This state capture commission must be broadened and must happen quickly.



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