Five shock claims from ANN7 ex-editor Rajesh Sundaram: 'Indians' working conditions were sub-human'

Rajesh Sundaram described the working conditions of the Indians who built the ANN7 television studio as sub-human. 'They would work 24 hours a day, with just a bag of rice to eat,' he told the Zondo inquiry.
Rajesh Sundaram described the working conditions of the Indians who built the ANN7 television studio as sub-human. 'They would work 24 hours a day, with just a bag of rice to eat,' he told the Zondo inquiry.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Rajesh Sundaram, the former editor of ANN7, the Gupta-owned TV news channel, testified before the state capture commission this week, leaving no stone unturned on the alleged involvement and influence of politicians in the channel.

SABC 'exploitation'

Sundaram told the commission that the SABC exposed itself to exploitation when it gave archival footage to ANN7 without having a monitoring system which would determine how much money was owed to the broadcaster, based on footage used. 

He said he knew about this deal from businessman Laxmi Goel, who he claims described it as a "sweet deal" between the SABC and ANN7. 

"He said 100 hours of footage would be given at throwaway price and described it as peanuts."

He further alleged Nazeem Howa, the CEO of the Gupta-owned holding company Oakbay, boasted about having the blessing and backing of former president Jacob Zuma.

Visa processes 'bypassed'

Sundaram told the commission that the right channels to get him a work visa were not followed. He said the department of home affairs had his visa ready within one day after his application. He also told the commission that he had not been required to attend an interview.

"I handed the documents to [businessman Laxmi] Goel, who handed them to Mr [Ashu] Chawla. Everything I read on the internet and the time it would take for visa processing were bypassed."

Zuma 'named the station'

Former president Zuma was allegedly heavily involved in the building of the station from the ground up, so much so that Sundaram said Zuma even named the station.

"Ajay was telling the president that we are calling it ANN just as Zuma suggested, he seemed to appreciate that." Sundaram said the "7" was added because there was already a news channel with the name ANN. 

ANN7 'built on slavery'

Sundaram alleged that employees who constructed the channel's studios were flown from India because they were "cheaper than South Africans". Sundaram also described their working conditions as sub-human and said they would work 24 hours a day, with just a "bag of rice to eat".

"The idea was to get a bunch of people from India, and not South Africa, before the launch."

SABC and home affairs 'got away with crime'

Sundaram wrote a book titled Indentured: Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV, which detailed what was happening at the Gupta channel. 

He claimed that the scores of the Indian employees who constructed the ANN7 studios were working on tourists permits, a concern which he claimed to have raised with the department of home affairs, but has received no response, six years later.  

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