'I am calling the shots here' - new ANN7 boss Manyi

2017-08-30 13:31
Mzwanele Manyi at the media briefing held at the ANN7 studios in Midrand. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Mzwanele Manyi at the media briefing held at the ANN7 studios in Midrand. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Johannesburg – Former government spokesperson and the new owner of television station ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, Mzwanele Manyi, on Monday rubbished claims of fronting. He said he believed that he was being targeted because he was black. 

"There is not even a whiff of evidence that is suggesting any criminality," said Manyi.  

Manyi briefed the media at the ANN7 studios in Midrand after widespread criticism for  buying the two entities from the Gupta family. 

"I consult no one, I am calling the shots here," he said responding to questions on whether he was running the company on behalf of the family. 

Manyi said in his capacity as the chairperson of Lodidox (Pty) Ltd, he had received numerous demands from several media houses asking him to reveal the shareholders register of the company. 

He said while the demands were not unlawful, they were unusual. 

"It was indeed disappointing, but not unexpected, to see rather malicious reporting and demeaning innuendos in media coverage related to the purchase by Lodidox of media entities, The New Age and 24-hour news channel ANN7," said Manyi. 

He said for the sake of transparency and public interest, he decided to make the details of Lodidox's shareholders public.  

Manyi said he did this with hopes "that the baseless negative reporting, speculation and the rumour-mongering will come to a halt".

"I also want to dispel the myth surrounding the special purpose financial vehicle used to purchase the two media entities from Oakbay Investments.

"Vendor financing is not an invention of Mzwanele Manyi, it has been a common feature of structuring business deals in South Africa in recent years, especially in effecting black economic empowerment."


Mzwanele Manyi has made public documents about the shareholding of ANN7 and The New Age. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

'Is it because I am black?'

Manyi said there was nothing unique about the vendor financing provided by Oakbay Investments to Lodidox for the purchase of the two media entities. 

"The hypocritical response to it exposed the ignorance, if not malice, by those who made the negative comments. I have concluded the transaction with confidence about the viability of the two media companies. This is based on the resilience and profitable growth potential which The New Age showed over the six years since its launch."

Manyi said his decision to pursue vendor funding was borne out of being frustrated by the Industrial Development Corporation. He said when he requested assistance he was sent from pillar to post and that was the reason why he approached the Gupta family. 

"I reject with contempt the calculations and forecasts made by several publications based on unrelated minority share disposal figures in the public domain versus the profitability of The New Age and ANN7. 

"The intention is clearly to cast aspersions, undermine and denigrate the historically significant purchase of a media entity by a black person and an African."

He said The New Age and ANN7 employed close to 500 staff whose jobs had been saved by this deal and plan to attract new talent and grow the business.

Manyi said the company had begun to rekindle relationships which had been poisoned.

"A new era has dawned in the media, an era of accuracy, transparency and honesty." 

Manyi said The Sunday Times had written an article in which it called him a puppet on a Gupta string. He claimed that there was no evidence to prove this and that negative reports made him feel like he was being targeted. 

"That made me think, why do they think I am a puppet, is it because I am black?"

Repayment

He said the country needed to deal with institutionalised racism. Manyi promised the staff that no one would be victimised or axed from their jobs. 

He said his aim was to attract new challenge and grow the team. 

On how he planned to pay back the Gupta family, he first said, "that was not the reason why we are here today" and then later said that the repayment would be determined by the profit made by the company.

He said he bought the company because he feared that staff, many of whom are black, would lose their jobs.  

Manyi also said there was not a "whiff" of evidence suggesting that the purchase of the company was unlawful or illegal.  He said the company would continue to work with the government and would approach the private sector for funding as well. 

He said there is a plan to appoint independent auditors that would audit the circulation numbers and once the numbers have been audited, they will be made public.

Read more on:    ann7  |  gupta family  |  mzwanele manyi  |  johannesburg  |  media

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