Iqbal Survé's Independent Media promises to pay staff in full after salary crunch

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Independent Media is SA's largest newspaper publisher.
Independent Media is SA's largest newspaper publisher.
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  • Journalists at The Star, Cape Times and other publications in the Independent Media group will receive their full salaries this month.
  • Last week the SA's biggest newspaper publisher said staff would only receive 75% of their salaries in March. 
  • Independent Media says its main shareholder, Sekunjalo, has committed to providing it with working capital. 
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

Just days after staff were told that their salary payments for March would be short, Independent Media has promised to pay journalists their full salaries before the end of the month.

Independent Media owns titles such as The Star, Isolezwe, Cape Argus, Cape Times and Pretoria News. 

On Friday, its CEO Takudzwa Hove had shared a message with staff saying they would only receive 75% of their salaries for March, with the balance to be paid later. 

Hove said the cuts were caused by a "very challenging business environment".

But on Tuesday, journalists were informed that they would receive their full salaries before the end of the month. 

"Following last week’s communication regarding the deferment of salaries, we are pleased to advise that the balance of 25%, will be paid tomorrow [Wednesday]," states the new memo from Hove.

What changed? 

Last week Hove had said that the group's shareholders had formally advised it that they would no longer support Independent Media financially.

On its website, Independent Media lists its shareholders as Sagarmatha Technologies and Chinese consortium Interacom. Sagarmatha is a subsidiary of businessman Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo Investment Holdings. 

But on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Independent Media told News24 that Sekunjalo had again "committed to advancing working capital funding for the company" without providing details. 

Tuesday's memo to staff, meanwhile, states that Sekunjalo had "agreed to provide a capital injection whilst Independent Media works to make the business self-sustainable, aligning revenues to costs".

A spokesperson for Independent Media said that last week's confidential settlement between state asset manager the Public Investment Corporation and IT group AYO had "absolutely nothing to do" with the difficulties in paying salaries. 

AYO is a subsidiary of African Equity Empowerment Investments, which, like Independent Media, falls under Sekunjalo. 

The PIC had taken AYO to court in a bid to claw back the R4.3 billion it invested in the IT group in 2017. But the proceedings were cut short after the two sides agreed to settle on Friday. The order has not been made public. 

Independent Media said on Tuesday that none of its staff had been paid by AYO. It said its difficulties in paying staff their full salaries on time stemmed from declining revenues and rising cost structures.

The confidential nature of AYO's settlement with the PIC has angered Public Servants Association, which represents 237 000 public-sector employees. 

"PSA calls for transparency and rejects this secretive deal between the PIC and AYO," it said. 

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