EDITORIAL: Mzwanele Manyi has his work cut out
‘Like several of Manyi’s other schemes, this one looks like a similarly silly idea’
The wonderful thing about Mzwanele Manyi’s "purchase" of the Gupta media interests is that at last he will enter the world of business, having sniped from the sidelines for long enough.
Even though ANN7 and The New Age are strange businesses, and this is an even stranger transaction, there is a possibility that his new responsibilities will distract him from discovering "dossiers" on his doorstep that smear public servants; laying charges at police stations; and twarring on social media.
Then again, it might not. The New Age and ANN7 will be the perfect repository of even more dossiers and even more stories on trumped-up investigations into President Jacob Zuma’s political enemies.
ANN7 has mimicked the style of far-right US "news network" Breitbart, bombarding the audience with conspiracy theories, fake news and hysteria, all intended to create a climate of "unknowability" where one set of facts or version of reality is just that: a version of events that exists alongside other versions.
ANN7’s version of the world, more particularly of SA, is an ugly one. It is a world in which democracy has not yet dawned; where a kleptocracy of white monopoly capitalists loot and plunder; and where all white people hate black people and vice versa. In this world, the prospect of nonracial solidarity is an idea that can only possibly be contemplated by sell-outs. Its aim is not to inform or debate, but to campaign and confuse.
So this is where Manyi, a self-confessed champion of the Gupta family and of Zuma, will make his foray into the business world. How successful will he be? In the battle of ideas, The New Age and ANN7 speak to the converted. For instance, the demonisation of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, to which it dedicated itself for more than a year, has had little impact in the wider society. The newspaper too is a feedback loop and has not found a genuine commercial readership.
On the business side, things also don’t look too good. Although Manyi is not paying for the acquisition — it has been curiously described by Oakbay as "vendor-financed" — the business model looks like it could soon run into trouble.
The business model looks like it could soon run into trouble
The New Age and ANN7 were set up to feed off the state. The SABC spent R20m on the New Age media breakfasts it broadcast on its behalf; the sponsorship that the Guptas secured from government departments and state-owned companies was breath-taking. Eskom alone spent R43m in return for displaying its logo on the set of the show.
But the taps are closing. The SABC is no longer available to provide free broadcasts; Eskom and every other state-owned enterprise is under close scrutiny; government departments can no longer be that easily commanded to place all their advertising where their political masters tell them.
How Manyi will make money to pay all the 7,500 staff he claims exist as well as to pay talk-show host Justice Malala double should he be "rehabilitated" (a promise he hilariously made on Malala’s Monday show on eNCA) is going to make an interesting business story.
It is possible, though, that none of this is the point at all and the only objective of getting a new owner on the part of the Guptas is to secure banking facilities. Unfortunately, Manyi is now just as much of a politically exposed person as they are. While he might have banking facilities right now, we can expect that whoever his bankers are will dedicate extra resources to monitor the movements through his account.
Like several of Manyi’s other schemes — remember the plan for coloureds to move from the Western Cape and Indians from KwaZulu-Natal so they could be more evenly balanced in the workforce — this one looks like a similarly silly idea.