Johannesburg - Close to 350 workers have been left jobless after MultiChoice followed through on its promise and removed the former Gupta TV from its DStv platform on Monday.
Several worried employees from Afro Worldview told The Star that a meeting convened with the channel’s management ended with workers being told not to report for work until further notice.
They said this was the result of the contract between MultiChoice and Afro Worldview coming to an end yesterday, with the channel ceasing to exist. MultiChoice took its decision in February.
“We (workers) have been informed not to report for duty until further notice.
“They didn’t tell us how long this will be, so we are in the dark on this,” said the employees, speaking in a conference call.
A MultiChoice representative confirmed that their contract with the channel had ended.
“Our contract with Afro Worldview comes to an end today. We will provide an update about the Afro Worldview channel by end of business (yesterday),” said the representative, who refused to be named.
Just two months ago, Afro Voice - formerly known as The New Age - also shut down, leaving scores of workers jobless.
The demise of Afro Voice and Afro Worldview could not be curbed by Mzwanele Manyi’s last-ditch attempts to rebrand and rebuild trust in his media empire, long thought to be a political mouthpiece for ANC factional fights.
This comes as Manyi, Afro Worldview’s chairperson, stressed the need to disassociate the channel from its forerunner ANN7, which was founded by the Gupta family.
Renowned news anchor Flo Letoaba, who recently joined the channel, threw her weight behind Manyi on Monday.
“I applaud and respect Mzwanele Manyi for his courage and tenacity; for constantly showing us as black people that we should want more for ourselves.
“As a businesswoman, I can only admire him,” Letoaba told The Star.
Manyi, who was speaking last week at a Daily Maverick gathering in Cape Town, hinted that his channel’s links to the Guptas was the reason for its downfall.
“If you want to kill anything in this country, give it a Gupta name. Even fresh milk; you put fresh milk here and you say ‘Gupta’, it turns sour immediately,” Manyi asserted.
He refused to comment on Monday, saying he was in a meeting and would only speak on Tuesday.
However, in a response to the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Twitter yesterday, Manyi implored people not to paint Afro Worldview and ANN7 with the same brush.
“Afro Worldview is 100% black-owned; run by locals; has a sound editorial policy, hence even the GS (general secretary) of Fedusa (Dennis George) always honours our invite as a guest in our studios.
“Afro Worldview cannot and should not be held accountable for ANN7 issues,” Manyi pointed out.
The Fedusa Twitter account had written that while it sympathised with workers who might lose their jobs, the union found it “difficult to ignore the propaganda history of the network and its previous owners (the Guptas)”.
Communication Workers Union general secretary Aubrey Shabalala said the union believed that MultiChoice’s decision to remove Afro Worldview “was a political one”, which would have a detrimental effect on the workers’ livelihoods.
He said MultiChoice had told the union that a new channel replacing Afro Worldview would be announced by yesterday. “But from what we have heard from their side, there was no certainty about the impending announcement.”
SA National Editors’ Forum executive director Kate Skinner said they were not only worried about job losses, but also about the shrinking media space.
“With a smaller workforce we have less diversity in the media space. We have elections next year and are going to need a lot of content. We are going to need multiple voices to tell stories, and that is not possible with the job losses.”