#StateCaptureInquiry: TNA and ANN7 were punished for reporting on 'white collar corporate capture' – Manyi

2018-11-26 17:48

Former head of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Mzwanele Manyi says The New Age (TNA) newspaper and its sister news channel ANN7 were "punished" for reporting on "white collar corporate capture".

Manyi bought TNA and ANN7 from the Gupta family in 2017. The media companies went under about a year later.

Appearing before the state capture commission of inquiry on Monday, Manyi said the media units were "punished" by the private sector – whose role players "hunt like a pack" – because they offered an alternative voice to the mainstream media.

'Job losses a tragedy'

Manyi said it was a "tragedy" that about 500 people lost their jobs when TNA and ANN7 closed. He said that when he took over the media units in 2017, he came into a loss-making organisation. He said it was "already bleeding, something like R5m per month".

Manyi said his "biggest preoccupation was to save jobs".

"I thought if I replace the Guptas there, I can save those jobs. But it was not to be. Five hundred people are without a job for something that could have been prevented. It was a tragedy to have lost that business," he said.

READ: Manyi settles Gupta loan after amount lowered

Manyi also blamed the collapse of the business on the "cabal of four media companies that inform the narrative". He said the mainstream media had "stigmatised" TNA and ANN7 so much that ministers were "harassed in Parliament" about how much their departments spent on them.

All of this was to "kill an alternative view", he said.

Manyi defended the amount of government advertising money spent on TNA by the GCIS when he was its head.

ALSO READ: Afrovoice newspaper to shut down

The GCIS was criticised during Manyi's tenure for advertising what many felt was a disproportionate amount on the Gupta-owned publication because it was not audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Questions over calculation

Manyi told the commission that TNA received 3.8% of government ad spend from 2011-2013. Commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo questioned whether Manyi's calculations were correct because he had not compared newspapers with newspapers, and had compared the SABC's entire spend with TNA's, for example.

Manyi said this was factored into his calculations.

He said there was an impression created that TNA was "gobbling up" government ad spend, when this was not true.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: Ex-editor reveals Jacob Zuma's role in creating ANN7

Manyi said he approved of government's support of TNA because it had a "glass half-full" reporting slant on government.

Manyi said TNA had reported on National Treasury's integrated financial management system (IFMS) project, which he implied implicated Treasury in malfeasance. The IFMS was an attempt by National Treasury to establish a single financial management system across government and dates back to 2000. An internal audit report found that there were weaknesses in the management of the project that led to financial losses. Treasury ordered an internal investigation, although no allegations of corruption or any illegality were made against anyone involved in the project. The IFMS was earlier used by detractors of Treasury to allege corruption.

Manyi also said that TNA had reported on an instance where the South African Revenue Service allegedly irregularly awarded a contract to a business in 2006. He said he did not want to "name names".

Several avenues

Zondo pointed out that he was interviewed by TNA when he was appointed as deputy chief justice, and said he was misquoted. He said the newspaper had refused to issue a correction even when presented with a recording of the interview. Manyi said this "corroborates" what he said, adding, "this is what we are subjected to".

Evidence leader advocate Vincent Maleka said there were a number of avenues available to people aggrieved by media reporting. 

Read more on:    ann7  |  raymond zondo  |  mzwanele manyi
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