Blame the Guptas, but what really killed Afro Worldview?
As the news spread that Mzwanele Manyi’s network had met a sudden end, there were many theories ...
Who killed Afro Worldview?
This week, as the news spread that Mzwanele Manyi’s network had met a sudden end after being booted off DStv, leaving about 350 staff jobless, there were many theories.
Some suggested that the channel was always to struggle given its reputation as a peddler of Zupta propaganda.
Others, like Tony Yengeni, alleged foul play.
“I’ve said many times before …” Yengeni tweeted on Tuesday, “White Monopoly Capital is a dangerous enemy of our people … those blacks who are supporting this treachery have lost their souls”.Of course, a former supporter of Jacob Zuma accusing people of treachery and losing their souls is pretty rich, even by ANC standards.
Nonetheless, I have to admit that I can see why some people are feeling particularly bitter about the implosion of Manyi’s media empire.
After all, this ANN7 and its partially laundered replacement, Afro Worldview, were not South Africa’s first propaganda machines.
Just over 100 years ago, a little company called Nasionale Pers was founded in the Cape, dedicated to the promotion of Afrikaner nationalism. When that ideology mutated into the white supremacist policy of apartheid, Nasionale Pers (Naspers) goosestepped right alongside, pouring out pro-apartheid propaganda on an industrial scale, even using tax rands to found a whole newspaper, The Citizen, to disseminate the twisted thoughts coming out of the Union Buildings.
On Monday, as Manyi told staff that they were unemployed, Naspers’s share price rose 2%, adding a few million more to a company that is already the largest on the JSE by some margin and that has made some people astonishingly rich.To Manyi’s supporters it must seem incredibly unjust that the former cheerleaders of white supremacy should now be so rich and powerful that they can snuff out a pro-black business with the flick of a switch, and get even richer as they do it.
But of course two wrongs can’t make a right. Naspers should never have been given the time and leeway to legitimise its reputation and launder its blood money; but there is also no space in a democratic South Africa for Manyi's propaganda machine.
So what killed Afro Worldview?
Democracy.Naspers could grow into a giant because it was protected by a dark-tinted greenhouse of despotism and institutionalised corruption. Protected by the state from the ravages of a free market or the kind of investigative press that haunts modern SA, it had decades to establish itself and plan its transition into respectability, finally issuing a curt apology and getting on with getting loaded.
Manyi’s game plan was solid. The Naspers model works. And, for a few years at least, it was on track. ANN7 was starting to bud, sending out shoots just as Naspers had in the 1960s. But the Gupta Leaks and Zuma’s resignation shattered all those dirty greenhouse windows. Exposed to the intense light of a free press and judiciary, the little plant began to wither.How different it might have been. If Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had won at Nasrec, Manyi would now be settling in for a 30-year-run as the head of Africa’s largest propaganda network, eventually passing it to successors to launder into a legitimate telecoms giant.
Well, if there were still an economy to support such a thing.
Because, of course, if Dlamini-Zuma had won, ushering in a potentially endless Zuma administration, the retrenchment of 350 workers from a television station would be almost invisible against the coming economic wasteland.
By all means, feel sympathy towards people who worked for him. But let’s be very clear: by backing Zuma, Manyi and his newsroom were backing the devastation of this country.
I hope his honest former employees find work soon. But if you miss Afro Worldview, you’re missing plenty.