Marcel Golding, executive chairperson of E.tv’s holding company Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) says his opposition to political pressure on editorial decisions of the television station is what lead to his suspension this week.
In a statement by HCI on Wednesday, the company stated that Golding was suspended over allegations of “gross misconduct”.
But in court papers filed in the Cape Town labour court, Golding argues that his refusal to run good coverage of President Jacob Zuma in the run-up to the 2014 general elections resulted in the deterioration of his almost 20-year long partnership with HCI directors John Copelyn and Yunis Shaik.
Marcel has asked the court to declare his suspension unlawful. “I hold the view that I believe that two directors of HCI, John Copelyn and Yunis Shaik are the driving forces behind the attemps to push me out,” he argued.
HCI has claimed that Golding was suspended because he purchased shares in Ellies – a JSE-listed company – without the approval of the board.
Golding said he believed it was “strategically sound” to invest in Ellies Limited. “I saw such an investment [and still do] a strategic investment for one of our key Sabido subsidiaries which is struggling to meet its targets,” he said.
Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) holds approximately 32% of HCI shares and according to Golding is HCI’s single largest beneficial shareholder. “I am vehemently opposed to any interference with the independence and integrity of editorial content and this tension is what led to the fracture of alliances within the connected companies,” Golding argued.
Golding painted a picture of how political influence began to be exerted in the lead-up to the 2014 general elections. “I was unwilling to compromise on the issue of independence and integrity of editorial content and Copelyn saw my view as detrimental to HCI’s business interests, particularly because of the attitude of its major shareholder, Sactwu, predominantly expressed through Shaik,” he said.
Golding made reference to an email sent by Shaik to Goldings wife Bronwyn Keene-Yong, which mentions that Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel requested e.tv evening news lead their bulletin with a story of Zuma opening a dam.
“It should be noted that this request was made four days after the Public Protector report into Nkandla was made public,” Golding stated.
Patel’s alleged attempts to influence news coverage did not stop there, he continued. According to Golding, he made another call to Shaik and the latter took it upon himself to directing the managing director of eNCA to cover the story.
Golding noted both he and his wife expressed outrage at political influence, which resulted in an altercation between them and Copelyn and deteriorated as far as Copleyn giving either of them an ultimatum to resign.
Golding further gave details of Patel allegedly strong arming good coverage by the television station. He noted that in August this year he was sent an “sms instruction” by Sactwu’s Andre Kriel to broadcast live a lecture delivered by Patel.
Kriel was unavailable to comment. Patel’s communication team did not respond to questions at the time of publishing.
Golding said he would be referring his dispute to the CCMA.