Newzroom Afrika owners, Thokozani Nkosi of Eclipse TV and Thabile Ngwato of Rapid Innovation.
Hundreds of former Afro Worldview workers are hoping that Newzroom Afrika, the new 24-hour news channel, will come to their rescue after it promised to prioritise them in its recruitment drive.

ANN7, launched by the controversial Gupta brothers in 2013, was shut down this month after MultiChoice opted not to renew its contract.

More than 100 companies launched bids for the vacant 24-hour television slot, including Afro Worldview.

On Tuesday MultiChoice confirmed that Newzroom Afrika was a new company formed by television production entrepreneurs Thokozani Nkosi of Eclipse TV and Thabile Ngwato of Rapid Innovation.

Ngwato recently resigned from the SABC after working there as a news anchor for five years.

Gospel show producer Nkosi said the company was entirely independent as he and Ngwato were the only owners in a 50-50 partnership.

“We are looking into how we can avoid the loss of jobs in the industry, which will obviously not be easy. Former Afro Worldview workers will be prioritised in the recruitment process. This is a huge project and we still have to get our ducks in a row, but we’ll make the announcement regarding recruitment as soon as the process starts - it will not be a secret,” said Ngwato.

MultiChoice chief executive Calvo Mawela said independent and trustworthy media were essential to a healthy democracy and that the Newzroom Afrika team would give nothing more than that.

“Today marks the birth of an exciting new and independent media voice in South Africa. We set out to find a quality new, black-owned, independent news channel to expand the diversity of South African news and enrich our democracy - we’re excited by the outcome,” said Mawela.

A former Afro Worldview worker, who declined to be named, said he started at the company as an intern shortly after the channel was launched. He said he was genuinely stuck between a rock and a hard place and was struggling to find new employment.

“I won’t lie, the situation that we are in is appalling. I don’t have enemies but even if I did, I would not wish for them to encounter something like this,” said the former worker.

He said he understood that the new channel would “prioritise” but that did not guarantee anything.

“Another thing, the channel will only resume in 2019 so what do we do between now and January,” he said.

Another former employee said she was hoping they would not be chastised for the Guptas’ actions and would remain positive through it all.

“We can only only remain optimistic and I salute (Mzwanele) Manyi for trying. We are just waiting for the union to get back to us but I will not be dismayed and I believe that God will come through,” she said.

Manyi, the Afro Worldview’s chairperson, has since thanked the former workers for their loyalty. He said he had received a letter from MultiChoice informing them that their bid had not been successful. 

"At this stage, we have no other option on the table but to wind up the operation. Those of you who have other employment options are advised to exercise them without any further delay,” said Manyi.

He also assured them that he would make further communication regarding termination logistics (UIF, payslips, certificate of service).

Some of the workers said it was the first month they had not been paid.

Aubrey Shabalala, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said he would meet with the workers this week to inform them on the way forward.

“We had a meeting before the announcement and now that it is public knowledge we can confidently say we have concluded the first leg of the matter. Afro Worldview still has an obligation to pay the workers their packages, obviously depending on the number of years and contractual agreements, and we are going to fight for our members until this ends,” said Shabalala.