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Independent Media staff slapped with last-minute, 25% salary cut

Staff of Iqbal Survé's Independent Media were shocked to hear they would only be paid 75% of their salary on payday
Staff of Iqbal Survé's Independent Media were shocked to hear they would only be paid 75% of their salary on payday
Image: Phil Magakoe

Independent media staff woke to the shocking news on Friday that they would only be paid 75% of their salaries, with “the balance of 25%” being “advised during the course of the coming week”.

The decision was communicated to employees via an email from company CEO Takudzwa Hove that morning. 

According to insiders who spoke to TimesLIVE anonymously, the decision was made after AYO Technology Solutions, the parent company of African Equity Empowerment Investment (AEEI) — owned by Iqbal Survé, who also owns Independent Media — and other companies under Sekunjalo Investment Holdings had to repay the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). 

In December 2017 AYO controversially scored R4.3bn from the PIC. The matter has been playing out in the Western Cape High Court, where an out-of-court settlement is believed to have been agreed upon between AYO and the PIC.

“It’s concerning for everyone. It’s f**ked up. I can still manage, it’s not a train smash for me personally, but what about others? On Wednesday the editors got an email to say the business is in dire straits and they need to come up with solutions to bring in more money because the shareholders indicated they would not inject more money into the company,” a staff member said.

On Thursday, a meeting was allegedly held between senior staff and editorial management to seek solutions to bring more capital into the company. 

“One of the solutions suggested is that IOL implements some sort of soft paywall for articles, but there seemed to be no interest in that. The editor-in-chief then made the suggestion that people take salary cuts and that idea was immediately shut down. Then we got this email this morning that they had to settle with the PIC. 

“They've known this week that they would settle with the PIC, but now, seemingly staff have to carry the cost of that settlement, all this while Iqbal Survé had a lavish wedding at the Mount Nelson, lives at the Silos, while both his adult children are studying in London.” 

Another staffer said they were being kept in the dark. 

“How can we plan if we don’t know when we are going to get the other 25%? What do we tell our banks regarding our debit orders?” 

In the email to staff, Hove stated that salary cuts should be viewed in the context of the “very challenging business environment in which we find ourselves”.

“Today we were advised of a very pressing matter which needed immediate action. Consequently, and in consultation with unions, the executive and the senior management team, it is with deep regret that we have had to take an urgent decision regarding the payment of salaries. As such, 75% of your salary will be paid tomorrow, 25 March 2023, and the payment of the balance of 25% will be advised during the course of the coming week,” the email read. 

“We kindly ask that you make the necessary provisions in terms of standing orders and other payments that need to be taken into account. We are happy to issue a confirmation of this arrangement in writing to any creditors that require such information. Please contact your HR practitioner in this regard.

“We are aware that this news will not be met well, but kindly ask for your understanding of this very difficult situation which we are working very hard to resolve.

“We are still the only media house in South Africa that has not embarked on mass retrenchments and we aim to keep it that way. For that to happen, we need to ask you to bear with us as we right the ship,” the company said. 


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