Steve Motale may have been ‘forced to resign’

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Ayanda Mdluli

The editor of The Star Newspaper, Japhet Mathanda Ncube, on Wednesday posted on his Facebook Page that Steve Motale, the editor of the Sunday Independent has resigned after a year at the helm of the weekly publication.

Speculation has been rife regarding Motale’s supposed resignation as some reports are suggesting that Motale was pushed out of the company at the instruction of newly elected president Cyril Ramaphosa.

On his Facebook page, Ncube posted a statement from the organisation which read:

The editor of Sunday Independent, Steve Motale, recently announced his departure from Independent Media. Steve joined the company in May 2017.

While he enjoyed being part of South Africa’s dynamic and vibrant media industry, he has decided to pursue an entrepreneurial venture.

Executive chairman of Independent Media, Dr Iqbal Survé thanked Steve for his contribution to the company and wished him success with his future endeavours. Further announcements will be made regarding Steve’s replacement.

Ncube went on to congratulate senior journalist Lebogang Seale, who is said to be taking over from the now vacant post as acting editor.   

According to a source at Independent Media who spoke to us on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job said Motale was forced to quit after Ramaphosa met with owner of Independent Media Iqbal Survé at Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

According to the source, Ramaphosa told  that Survé if he does not fire Motale, he will not receive government business.

Our source explained that what this translates to is that Ramaphosa does not want to be criticized at any level by media publications and has taken a hard line against those who offer an alternative narrative compared to the one that is praising him from other Sunday publications such as the Sunday Times and City Press.

“These publications have been effectively classified as Ramaphosa mouth pieces,” he said.

Motale could not be reached for comment, but another source close to Motale has revealed that he was indeed fired in an attempt to gag the Sunday Independent from publishing any more stories which may be perceived as negative about Ramaphosa.

“It is true that Motale has been forced to leave under the pretext that he has resigned. He has been pushed to leave at the instruction of Ramaphosa. Also, when Motale was exposing Ramaphosa’s alleged infidelities in the Sunday Independent, it came out in court papers that Ramaphosa called Survé to complain. Survé was pressured by Ramaphosa who was then deputy president of the Republic to give him assurances that the story would not be published. This is a clear-cut example of interfering with editorial independence and freedom of expression. Ramaphosa effectively threatened the owner of Independent Media. The last time I checked, interfering with and forcing a media owner and editor to go against media independence is unconstitutional. This leaves much to be desired with the leadership of Ramaphosa who is now forcing stories not to be published. If this is what he can do to a Billionaire – Philanthropist like Survé and an editor of a leading Sunday publication, what is he going to do as the president of SA,” he asked.