Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
Mzwanele Manyi. Picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

Mzwanele Manyi’s Afrotone Media has distanced itself from the Gupta family as the company bids to win an individual commercial free-to-air television broadcasting service and radio frequency spectrum licence.

The SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) have called on the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) not to grant the company the licence, citing, among others, its links to the Guptas.

The organisations said given that free-to-air licences were granted infrequently — this would only be the second in SA’s history — and because they used public resources in the form of frequencies, they believed it was important to apply great scrutiny to those granted such licences.

Manyi recently rebranded ANN7 to Afro Worldview, while The New Age (TNA) newspaper changed its name to Afro Voice.

The Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments announced in late 2017 its withdrawal from its media interests‚ selling its shareholding in Infinity Media (ANN7) and TNA to Lodidox and management for R450m.

Oakbay vendor-financed the deals, essentially lending Manyi the money to buy the businesses.

Manyi said he had repaid his debt to the Guptas and the original amount owed had been lowered after renegotiations.

ANN7 will be dropped from the DStv bouquet in August.

In its submission to Icasa, Infinity said the objections by lobby groups were unfounded.

It said it met all the requirements for a free-to-air licence.

"It is unfounded and alarming that SOS and Media Monitoring Africa would make allegations that the application is inappropriate," Infinity said.

"The Gupta family does not form part of the new Infinity Media shareholding or leadership. The new management subscribes to open, honest and transparent broadcasting which is in the public interest.

"SOS and MMA’s accusations on the issue of state capture are all based on previous shareholders who are no longer affiliated to the business in any way," Infinity said.

MMA director William Bird described the submissions as "embarrassing and laughable".

In February, Icasa issued a new invitation for Infinity Media to apply after it had rejected a previous application in 2014.