Johannesburg – Controversial former government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi lost out on a lucrative free-to-air TV licence because his company, Infinity Media, did not meet the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa) rules on foreign ownership.
The communications regulator released its reasons for awarding the licence to Kwese Free TV.
Icasa said Infinity Media claimed it was a South African company with no foreign investment in it, but was deemed not to meet the requirements of the Electronic Communications Act, on ownership of broadcasting services licensees.
In terms of the act, a foreigner may not, directly or indirectly, exercise control over a commercial broadcasting licensee by having a financial interest or an interest either in voting shares or paid-up capital in it exceeding 20% of its value, and foreigners may not make up more than 20% of its directors.
Manyi initially stated in his application that Infinity Media was 100% owned by Afrotone Media Holdings, in which he had a 90% stake through his company Lododix, while the remaining 10% was owned by Super Projects Trading.
Super Projects Trading is jointly owned by former spokesperson for the controversial Gupta family, Gary Naidoo, and Abhinav Sahay.
However, Manyi later amended his application to indicate that Afrotone Media Holdings was owned by Golden Fence Construction, which is owned by Sifiso Mtetwa, Unati Mguye’s Storky Consulting and Projects, and Mandela Legacy Media, which is owned by Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela.
Icasa said it did not find any justification as to how this material change would not unfairly prejudice other applicants and that the amendment would also impede the expeditious and proper consideration of Manyi’s application.
Infinity Media, owner of former 24-hour TV news channel ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, was previously owned by the Guptas, who sold the company to Manyi in 2017.
The winning applicant, Kwese Free TV, is jointly owned by the Royal Bafokeng nation, businessman and former sports boss Moss Mashishi’s Mosong Equities, and Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s Kwese Media Econonet SA.
Icasa said Kwese Free TV had undertaken that its foreign ownership would not exceed 20% and none of its bosses were political office bearers or employees of political parties. Kwese Free TV has projected an audience size of 2.1million viewers a week.