Why shouldn't the Sunday Times be bought by people with links to government, Thami Mazwai wants to know in The Star.  The row around Koni's attempt to buy Johncom is a lot of noise over nothing, a typical reaction from a right-wing masquerading as liberals.

Thami Mazwai writes in The Star:

There is nothing as fascinating, and typically South African, as the apoplexy that surrounds Groovin Nchabeleng's intention to buy Johncom, a major publishing house that owns the country's biggest newspaper, the Sunday Times.

The uproar borders on "leave our paper alone" to "this is an attempt by the ANC to have a newspaper for propaganda purposes". This outcry needs analysis to ensure that this bid is not stillborn, as is the intention.

A few assumptions need to be made. The market operates on a process of the best offer winning the day. Flowing from this, it is in the seller's interest to have many buyers compete as this drives the price upwards. Admittedly, the purchase of a media institution goes beyond simple market dynamics. After all, it is the power to influence millions of South Africans that is at issue. However, all South Africans are entitled to buy and sell as they wish.

Having made these assumptions, what surrounds the outrage over Nchabeleng's bid to buy Johncom? Management should have done its sums and analysis and then referred the offer to the board. The board would, after checking all essentials, refer to shareholders with recommendations and reasons. Instead, the offer found its way into the front pages of the Sunday Times.

The story mischievously included the names of consortium members Billy Modise, Ronnie Mamoepa and Titus Mafolo, all senior ANC members and who are said to be close to President Thabo Mbeki, to generate as much hysteria as possible. If this is not a blatant abuse of journalistic privilege, then what is?

What blows the mind is that Koni, Nchabeleng's company purchased an advertising house last year and there was no outcry. Granted, and as stated above, buying the right to influence South Africans is a different kettle.

However, what makes the Nchabeleng consortium less worthy than the current owners, moreso if this is a commercial transaction as Nchabeleng says? Is there a view that members of the ANC, especially those perceived to be close to Mbeki, must not participate in the media industry? Or, to put it bluntly, can they not own a newspaper house? Taking into account that more than 70% of the country voted for the ANC in the last election. 

Click here to read the rest of Mazwai's column, posted on The Star's website (Star subscribers only).