Alide Dasnois was removed as executive editor of the Cape Times newspaper, a title owned by South Africa’s Independent Newspapers, and was replaced by Gasant Abarder, the company said.
The change followed the Cape Times’s Dec. 6 publication of allegations made in a report by the nation’s graft ombudsman of improper conduct by the agriculture minister in awarding an 800 million rand ($77 million) contract to a company that partially owns the newspaper group to manage the state’s fisheries vessels. Independent Newspapers’ Chairman Iqbal Surve denied Dasnois’s removal was related to the story.
“I and the Independent deny this version of events,” Surve said in an e-mailed statement. “Dasnois was not fired” and has been offered other positions in the group, he said.
A group led by Cape Town-based Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, the chairman of which is Surve, agreed in February to buy the South African operations of Independent News & Media Plc (INM), Ireland’s biggest newspaper publisher, for 2 billion rand ($194 million). The assets include some of the country’s best-selling daily newspapers, including Johannesburg’s Star and the Cape Times.
The group includes the Public Investment Corp., which manages the pensions of South African state workers, and the China Development Bank.
Sekunjalo’s lawyers sent the Cape Times a letter demanding a front page apology from Dasnois and the author of the article, Melanie Gosling, and threatened to issue summons against the two individuals, the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported, citing the letter.
Dasnois didn’t answer a call made to her mobile phone.
Johannesburg’s Business Day newspaper today reported that Dasnois on Dec. 5 fought with Surve over coverage plans for the next day, citing unidentified staff at the Cape Times.
Surve said “editors have fiduciary responsibilities to ensure performance” and the Cape Times has seen a 28 percent fall in sales between 2008 and 2012, with a 16.8 percent decline last year alone. Sales this year may be worse, he said.
The South African National Editors’ Forum said it was shocked at Dasnois’s removal and expressed concern that the move may be related to the publication of the story on Sekunjalo.
“Sanef condemns any interference with the independence of editors and journalists when carrying out their duties,” the grouping said. “We call on Sekunjalo Holdings to clarify the issues relating to Dasnois’ sudden dismissal without delay and to desist from making threats against the staffers.”
Abarder left his position as Eyewitness News news editor, breaching a contractual agreement to work three months notice after resigning in November, EWN Editor-in-Chief Katy Katopodis said in a statement today.
Surve is described as a philanthropist and “influential African entrepreneur” on Sekunjalo’s website. He was known as the “struggle doctor” for providing care to political prisoners after they were released from a prison on Robben Island, where South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela served time, according to the website.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at email@example.com