The editor of News24 is taking the stand at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday, as the commission probes deeper into the murky waters of corruption that kept Bosasa afloat in the 21st century. Adriaan Basson will face questions from the inquiry’s legal team, regarding the companies alleged suppression of reporters.
Angelo Agrizzi – whose testimony came to define an entirely new dimension of state capture completely free of the Guptas – had previously alleged that Bosasa had hired industry professionals to intimidate Basson and fellow investigative reporter Carien du Plessis, when they both worked for Beeld and Die Burger respectively.
Basson is not the usual type of witness we’ve seen face the Zondo Commission. This certainly marks a departure from government officials and corrupt business executives, and that’s what makes his appearance so completely captivating for politically-engaged South Africans.
What Adrian Basson is likely to tell the state capture inquiry, and why it’s important:
Lifting a lid on state capture’s treatment of journalists
Basson has been a very vocal critic of the way reporters were shushed by some of state capture’s top players over the last 15 years. The editor told his publication that “the way in which journalists were targeted through the state capture project is an important part of our history that should be recorded.”
It’s expected he will elaborate further on this issue and reveal to what extent media houses were limited from expressing the truth. In a country that values democracy the way South Africa does, this is a bombshell allegation.
A watershed moment for the inquiry
As we’ve said earlier, it’s not just big business and government figures that are providing the state capture inquiry with evidence. Given the amount of information and resources News24 possess, a move like this is a huge step forward from Justice Raymond Zondo and his team.
They are effectively choosing to trust the immutable word of the South African media, which is a victory in itself considering how vulnerable the news industry is to accusations of providing false information and mistrust. Basson’s appearance could soon open the door for a wider range of witnesses with unique sets of information to share.
Introspection of South African media
Having Basson in the hot-seat could work both ways for our domestic news outlets. He’s likely to talk about how the people paid to discredit him and du Plessis were also reputable, well-known journalists.
Agrizzi testifies what I suspected for years: Bosasa paid rogue journalists and “media consultants” to intimidate @carienduplessis and I for exposing Bosasa’s corruption. He names Benedicta Dube, Pinky Khoabane, Stephen Laufer, “Ntuli” from Sunday Times or Star, “Bongs” from EC.
— Adriaan Basson (@AdriaanBasson) January 28, 2019
The allegation that some of the media’s most household names could be bought and sold by a company like Bosasa could have far-reaching consequences for South African media. Incidents like “the rogue unit” story can damage reporter credibility for years to come. Depending on the length and depth of Adriaan Basson’s testimony, SA publishers may be forced to take a long, hard look at themselves.