The South African Press Association (Sapa) closed down last night after board members pulled the plug on the 76-year old wire news service. Social media users and professionals in the media industry voiced their sadness at the institution’s closure, however there is a possibility that a profit-driven wire service could be established in the near future. 

The 76-year-old South African Press Association (Sapa) closed down yesterday after its last story was published at midnight.

Media reports indicated that the company’s future was uncertain for more than a year. The closure came after board members, consisting of representatives of institutions that funded the service, started to pull out of the “not-for-profit entity” since 2013.

Media professionals speak out

Jos Charles, chairperson of the National Press Club, said in a statement that “the club joins the South African media fraternity in mourning the sad demise of Sapa.”

Head of Wits Journalism, Professor Anton Harber, said in a radio interview that industry will not be same without Sapa as it played an important role as the “bedrock of South African news coverage for seven decades”.

“To me, more than anything else it symbolises the short-sightedness of most of our media owners, publishers and broadcasters who have failed to see the value of Sapa and failed to invest in it to deal with the challenges facing the news industry,” Harber said.

Liquidation, retrenchment and CCMA

Minette Ferreira, chairperson of Sapa, said the company will be liquidated after its assets were disposed of, as its non-profit category did not allowed for it to be sold-off.

Since last September proposals were received from Gallo Images, KMM Review Publishers and Sekunjalo Investments for the acquisition of the Sapa assets.

The Mail & Guardian reported that Sapa staff members were retrenched  but in February this year, some staff took the organisation to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to challenge their dismissals.

Ferreira added that the Sapa board had “underlined its commitment to ensuring the interests of Sapa employees were correctly and meticulously attended to”.