The ANC's Youth League has come out in defence of the Gupta-associated ANN7 broadcast network, saying the slavishly pro-Zuma, pro-ANC station is being punished by pay-TV giant MultiChoice for providing "an alternate voice on political and social issues".
In an interview with HuffPost, ANCYL spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize said it was "unfortunate" that MultiChoice had chosen not to renew ANN7's contract when it expires in August. Previously owned by the controversial Gupta family, ANN7 and The New Age newspaper were both sold in 2017 to Mzwanele "Jimmy" Manyi in a "vendor-financed" deal.
"There are people employed at ANN7, and with the economy not being able to absorb people into jobs, many will be left without an income. It is not about their inability to produce content, but the name of the family associated with the publication," Mkhize said, referring to the overwhelming volume of allegations of state capture that have piled up against the Guptas.
"Regardless of how political leaders across the spectrum feel about ANN7, this decision will affect young people and employment," the ANCYL spokesperson added. "ANN7 provides a alternative voice. Indeed, the crime they are paying for is serving as a platform where radical economic transformation is placed at the fore."
MultiChoice announced on Wednesday that it would not be renewing ANN7's contract when it expires in August, even though an internal investigation found no corruption had taken place regarding the contract between the two.
It was revealed last year that policy recommendations written by MultiChoice were sent on to former communications minister Faith Muthambi. The minister, in turn, forwarded these to the Gupta family, according to emails leaked from the family's business empire.
The communications ministry also weighed in.
Communications minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said: "I wish to express my disappointment that the viewers of DSTV will not have access to the diversity of voices that ANN7 has also contributed to the country's media landscape."
She said this serves as a lesson going forward.
"As government we need to look at how our current policies are structured in relation to increasing diversity of media ownership... On the same note, government is pleased on the progressive move by MultiChoice to find a new black-owned news channel to represent the majority of people in South Africa," she said.
"It is imperative to ensure that there is diversity of media ownership bringing new and fresh perspective to the people of South Africa."