/ 11 December 2013

Former Cape Times editor Dasnois considering legal action

Independent News and Media South Africa chairperson Iqbal Survé.
Independent News and Media South Africa chairperson Iqbal Survé.

Former Cape Times editor Alide Dasnois is considering legal action following her dismissal from the newspaper, she said on Wednesday.

"In my opinion, I was unfairly dismissed from my position at the Cape Times," she said.

"I have taken legal advice and we are considering referring a dispute to the CCMA [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration] or the Labour Court."

It was reported on Friday that Dasnois had been fired and that she was informed of her dismissal the same day.

Independent News and Media South Africa (INMSA) chairperson Iqbal Survé? said in a statement on Monday that Dasnois had not been fired, but had been offered alternative positions in the company.

He was responding to concerns voiced by the South Africa National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and the Cape Town Press Club that Dasnois may have been fired after the newspaper ran a story on Friday which painted Sekunjalo in a negative light.

The story was about a public protector finding that the awarding of a fisheries tender by the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries department to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium was improper.

Controlling share
The consortium is a subsidiary of Sekunjalo Holdings and acquired a controlling share in INMSA earlier this year. 

Sekunjalo Investments subsequently sent a lawyer's letter to the Cape Times stating that the story was inaccurate.

Survé said that since Sekunjalo had joined INMSA, it had been clear that there would be changes in Independent's print titles and other platforms to boost competitiveness and ensure sustainability.

"While it is not the practice to discuss staff changes in public because of how it could affect the integrity and privacy of my employees, the sustained campaign to vilify me and INMSA has forced me to outline some aspects of the strategic repositioning of the business publicly," he said.

He categorically denied that Dasnois's replacement was due to the fisheries tender story. "Given the distorted picture now being peddled in the public about the motives for the changes at the paper, it is necessary to remind everyone of the wholly unsatisfactory sales performance of that title over the last few years."

Surve said the Cape Times's compounded loss of sales, between 2008 and 2012, amounted to 28%. "Under these circumstances, the new owners of the paper have every right and an obligation to make changes aimed at arresting the situation."

He said Gasant Abarder had been appointed editor of the Cape Times in place of Dasnois. "In conclusion, I want to state for the record that I, together with the leadership of this group, remain fully committed to the editorial independence of all our journalists and editors."

'Deep anger'
On Monday, the staff of the Cape Times issued a statement indicating their "deep anger and protest" at the dismissal of Dasnois. 

"Although Dasnois was told three days ago [Friday] not to return to work, staff have still not been officially informed of the reason for her sudden dismissal," they said in the statement. "The staff's concern, from the sequence of events, is that the new owners of the newspaper, Sekunjalo Independent Media, are attempting to compromise the editorial independence of the Cape Times."

If this was the case, it was a direct threat to the standing and independence of the newspaper. "Dasnois has asked staff to continue with normal production of the newspaper, especially this week, as a sign of respect to Nelson Mandela. We respect her wishes," staff said.

"We will be in discussion and decide on appropriate action for next week. Editorial staff at the Cape Argus and the Star support this statement." – Sapa