Naspers’ donation to the ANC: Wishcasting a grand coalition between the ANC and the DA?

Who supports both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the same match? The people who own the stadium, that’s who, writes Roscoe Palm.

Who supports both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the same match? The people who own the stadium, that’s who, writes Roscoe Palm.

Published May 18, 2024


When Sekunjalo donated a sum of money to the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape in 2019, there was much hand wringing, wailing and gnashing of teeth in liberal online media.

A full news cycle of white noise ensued because of a donation from a company that they disliked, to an organisation that they detested.

Will these champions of justice and democracy now comment on Naspers’ recent two million rand donation to the ANC and the main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA)? I won’t hold my breath.

The IEC’s fourth quarter publication of political donations for the 2023/24 financial year, the period up to the end of March this year, political activity was ramping up. During this period a record amount of more than R172 million was declared by political parties to the IEC.

At first glance, Naspers’ donation to the ANC is weird. News24, one of the subsidiary companies of Naspers, publishes many critiques of the ANC, some legitimate, and some completely hysterical. But it is far from sympathetic to the ANC in general.

But it all makes political and business sense to the billionaire class. First of all, it’s just R2 million rand, and if you’ve got billions, you’ve got plenty of two million rands just lying around the back of your couch. It’s loose change strewn onto the political streets to win friends and curate influence among certain people within those political parties.

Secondly this donation is part of a programme to bring about some kind of consensus for a “grand coalition” between the ruling ANC and the opposition DA. The big danger is that enough people of influence within the ANC take this seriously enough to start floating this as a possibility. It would be the end of the ANC’s credibility.

Moonshot? More like Apollo 13

When a group of opposition parties launched their formal pre-election alliance, their stated aim was to take power. Since then, the Multi-party charter (MPC), or “Moonshot Pact”, as a vehicle to power for the proxies and stooges of apartheid capital is dead in the water. Even the most optimistic polling suggests that it is unlikely that a coalition of liberal and conservative opposition parties will be able to take power outright in the upcoming elections.

The parties within the moonshot pact all slurp from the same funding trough, which is kept full by the same people, most notably the Oppenheimers. Shared funding implies a level of strategic coordination by those who wield capital.

Attempts to manifest this kind of regression have been clear in the columns and articles of News24 and other media. News24’s editor recently wrote a hagiography of Velenkosini Hlabisa, the leader of the IFP, casting him as a future South African president.

The media has also been profiling friendly faces outside of the Moonshot pact. Songezo Zibi of Rise Mzansi has been given a magic carpet ride through the mainstream media, almost uninterrogated because he is one of their own. A former editor, polished to the point of appearing manufactured.

Obama from the Eastern Cape, simultaneously a grievous slur or the highest compliment depending on how much, or how little you know of history.

Similar red carpet media treatment has been given to, among others, Roger Jardine, Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba, and others. Liberal media has speed dated various darlings over the last few months, and having upped their body count in a summer of delirious love, are finally accepting the dour reality that they are (for now) unhappily married to John Steenhuisen.

In the case of Jardine, he may yet be parachuted somewhere into the moonshot. Change Starts Now reported donations of R35 million weeks after it announced that it wouldn’t contest elections. It’s unclear whether Change Starts Now is changing, ending, or starting now. Perhaps only Helen Zille really knows. Either way, they are pretty flush with cash for a political organisation that is basically a website and a few warm thoughts from a couple of Daily Maverick journalists.

When it became clear to these masters of the media that limitless uncritical publicity and puff pieces could not elevate these leaders to the status of legitimate contender (at least for now), they had to come up with another strategy.

Second prize — the “Grand Coalition”

That’s why Naspers and others are hedging on a second prize — a “grand coalition” between liberal elements in the ANC and the Democratic Alliance. Naspers donated the same amount to the DA and the ANC — R2 million each during the same window of time.

Who supports both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the same match? The people who own the stadium, that’s who. In South Africa, generally this is apartheid legacy capital corporations.

Inside the ANC, there are elements who would sign some kind of co-governance deal with the DA. Such a coalition would set South Africa on an uncertain policy trajectory. Everything would be back on the table - labour legislation, privatisation of SOE’s, further austerity, and a raft of policy and economic measures that could reverse democratic gains, subvert democratic will, and compromise South Africa’s sovereignty by realigning our international relations.

A “grand coalition” would hollow out the ANC as a liberation movement.

And maybe, this is the ultimate intention of the architects of the “grand coalition” strategy. How many ordinary ANC members would be happy as bedfellows with the DA, a party that is the political front of a pro-western imperial project? This arrangement would kill off what remains of any revolutionary consciousness in the ANC.

Would the implementation of the NHI survive in a marriage of convenience between the ANC and the DA? The funders, the people who really call the shots, would nix this by deploying DA cadres to run interference from within such an awkward alliance. Trigger warning: Deputy President Helen Zille? Prime Minister Tony Leon? Speaker of Parliament Geordin Hill-Lewis?

Prelude to more preferential treatment for Naspers?

Naspers’ donation also raises questions of media ethics. It raises the spectre of preferential treatment in the future. The best predictor of future behaviour is the past. When it comes to Naspers, questions still linger about Koos Bekker and Naspers’ role in capturing the pay TV space at the expense of the public broadcaster.

A political donation of this nature opens up huge opportunities for a massive company like Naspers who have interest in many economic sectors. They own a number of companies, including Prosus, Takealot, Mr D Food, Superbalist, AutoTrader, Property24 and PayU. Their network and influence is spread throughout the South African economy.

Could this donation be a “pay to play” expense, and if so, who are the people within the ANC and the alliance who Naspers intend to call the shots in the next government of South Africa?

The donation from Naspers to the ANC, or any political party for that matter is unethical. Asking the government to close this loophole would be like asking someone who is a player and referee to adjudicate against themselves. The ANC should return the donation to Naspers with a card attached saying “not for sale”.

* Roscoe Palm is a researcher, a writer, and a columnist.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.