Independent group chair Iqbal Survé has denied that former "Cape Times" editor Alide Dasnois was removed because of an editorial stance.
Independent News and Media group South Africa (INMSA) head Iqbal Survé categorically denied that editor Alide Dasnois was axed from her position because the Cape Times ran a story on tender irregularities by Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
Instead, he said that "all editors have fiduciary responsibilities to ensure performance. I will not tolerate underperformance of titles especially if it undercuts the papers ability to grow market share". This implies that Dasnois was axed for not meeting financial targets.
Dasnois was informed of her removal by Survé, who is also the executive chairperson of Sekunjalo Consortium, on Friday. Sekunjalo is the controlling shareholder of Independent, which owns the Cape Times among many other titles, such as the Star in Gauteng.
Her removal from office coincides with the newspaper publishing a front-page article on public protector Thuli Madonsela's finding that Joemat-Pettersson was guilty of maladministration, as well as improper and unethical conduct in the irregular awarding of an R800-million tender to a Sekunjalo subsidiary to manage the state's fishery vessels.
A source within the newspaper, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity, said: "It is directly in response to the story. Whether it is a long-term plan or not, we don’t know. What sparked this was Friday's paper."
However, Survé said: "The decision to make changes at the Cape Times is in line with our medium-term plans to ensure that Independent is competitive and ensures the sustainability of the business and the security of its employees."
In a statement, Survé listed the appointment of Karima Brown as group executive editor, Chris Whitfield (former Cape regional editor) as group executive in charge of launching new regional and national titles, and Gasant Abarder as editor of the Cape Times, with Anees Sallie (former Cape Times night editor) as his deputy.
He dismissed the negative reports as a "campaign of distortions" and a "sustained campaign to vilify me and INMSA".
"The new plan for Independent’s future is in the process of being rolled out and communicated to internal stakeholders. This process began at an internal workshop in Cape Town last Thursday, December 5, but this was unfortunately cut short by the news of [the] tragic death of Madiba," he said.
Survé said that Dasnois was not fired, but "offered various other positions in the company to which [Survé] is still await[ing] a response".
She has been replaced by Abarder, who left Primedia's EyeWitness News (EWN). But Primedia on Monday issued a statement saying that Abader had "absconded from his position as EWN's news editor in Cape Town".
Abarder resigned last month, but was working out a three-month notice period.
"However, on Friday evening, he wrote a late-night email to management, informing them that he was leaving with immediate effect and would not be returning to Primedia Broadcasting," the news organisation said.
Repeated attempts to contact Abarder were unsuccessful.
Wits University professor Anton Harber said: "Dr Survé's one company is suing journalists from his other company. I've never seen anything so bizarre. Surely he has to find a more sensible way to deal with these differences."