Media diversity takes a blow in newspaper shut down

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Ayanda Mdluli

It was a sad day for media diversity in SA as the Afro Voice, formerly known as The New Age was reportedly shut down.

Although the company had not released a statement on the matter, staff who spoke to Africa News 24-7 said they were informed on Thursday that the news outlet will be shutting down in July and that yesterday was their last day of work.

In addition, speculation was rife in the newsrooms that Dstv would not be renewing Afro World View’s license and the channel would move off the platform at the end of August.

Media group owner Mzwanele Manyi could not be reached for comment, however some staff members argued that the decision to shut down the newspaper completely, instead of looking at other options such as scaling down or working towards a free to air licence for the television news at the SABC should have at least been a plan B for Manyi.

According to a comment from one of the staffers: “Afro Voice is shutting down. Staff members were told in a meeting not to come to work in July because the paper will no longer be operational.”

Afro Voice saw a lot of government revenue being pulled back after the so-called Guptas unbundled their media operations in SA and selling the entity to Manyi in a vendor financing deal reported to be close to R450-million.

The transaction made Manyi one of the biggest black media owners in SA, a situation that left white owned media houses reeling as they scrambled to find out who the other shareholders of his company were. Manyi even hosted a press briefing where he had to produce company documents to white journalists proving that he was the sole owner of Afro Tone Media.

After the ANC’s elective conference, where Cyril Ramaphosa, who was said to be backed by private capital won by a very narrow margin, MultiChoice, the owners of Dstv moved to shut down Manyi’s recently acquired ANN7. After rebranding in an attempt to appease the new administration in the hopes of getting government backing, it was not to be as the paper shut abruptly putting scores of young, black energetic journalists out of work.

“This is a real tragedy; the country cannot afford to have more unemployed young people. This is really, really bad, said one of the staffers.