The High Court in Pretoria today granted an urgent provisional liquidation order against TNA Media, which owns the newspaper Afro Voice (previously known as The New Age).
Judge Pierre Rabie granted the order after an application by the newspaper’s new owner Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi, Afrotone Media and the directors of TNA who told the court the newspaper was no longer operating and was commercially insolvent.
Interested parties have until 13 November to supply reasons why a final liquidation order should not be granted against the newspaper.
A number of the newspaper’s employees initially attempted to hand in an affidavit opposing the application, alleging the newspaper was in fact not commercially insolvent and that the employees’s rights would be negatively affected, but eventually withdrew their bid.
Labour lawyer Caroline White, who represents some of the employees, said they would take up their concerns about certain perceived anomalies with the Master of the High Court and also intended launching an application to be joined as a party in the liquidation proceedings.
Employees of the newspaper have complained that they were not properly consulted before the newspaper was suddenly closed last month and expressed fears that they would lose their pensions and other benefits.
The applicants’ attorney, Ross Richards, made it clear that the provisional liquidation order only involved Afro Voice and did not affect Afro WorldVoice (previously ANN7), which he said was commercially solvent and doing business as usual.
Counsel for the applicants submitted that the main purpose of the provisional liquidation application was to appoint a provisional liquidator to preserve the newspaper’s assets and to prevent it from being dissipated or vandalised.
In court papers Manyi, who bought the newspaper from the Guptas’ Oakbay Investments in 2017, blamed the newspaper’s steadily declining income on perceptions that they were still linked to the Gupta family and state capture.
The provincial governments of the Free State and North West also cancelled their bulk subscriptions with the newspaper and a protracted legal dispute with the SABC over the TNA business briefings resulted in the briefings being suspended. JIC Mining and Koornfontein Mines also cancelled their annual sponsorships amounting almost R3 million per month.
In addition, all of the newspaper’s operational bank accounts were held with VBS Mutual Bank, which was placed under curatorship in March, and the freezing of their accounts severely affected operations, Manyi said.