Speaking on a panel at Daily Maverick’s annual conference The Gathering on Wednesday morning, Mzwanele Manyi told host Ferial Haffajee that the Gupta’s reputation contributed to the failure of Afro Voice newspaper, formerly the New Age.
“If you want to kill anything in this country give it a Gupta name, even fresh milk would turn sour,” he said.
Manyi was owner of the newspaper, which recently filed for liquidation.
He also owns DStv channel Afro Worldview, which was rebranded from Gupta-owned news station ANN7. The future of the channel is uncertain, as its contract expires on August 20, and MultiChoice said in January they did not plan to renew it.
Manyi recently tweeted just after 3am on Monday morning that there was a “very well-orchestrated” attempt to “sabotage” the channel.
He claimed the “evidence is overwhelming”.
According to the businessman, “various known sources feed fictitious information to unsettle the organisation and to work society to accept our manufactured demise”.
He added the channel would not “roll over and play dead”.
The Guptas started both channels to establish a source of South African news more sympathetic to themselves and Jacob Zuma than most.
When Zuma’s presidency abruptly came to an end after the ANC conference in Nasrec in December, the controversial family fled to Dubai, selling their media operations to Manyi, who is reported to have bought it in a “vendor financing” deal, meaning he would not have to pay for it upfront, essentially being lent the money for it by Gupta-owned company Oakbay investments.
While Manyi was alleged to be close to the Guptas, he attempted to distance himself and his media outlets from the controversial family, later blaming the negative publicity surrounding Zuma and the Gupta family for his newspaper’s failure.
In May, Manyi said he had fully paid off his debt to the Guptas, which he said had been lowered after renegotiation.
He was attempting to distance himself and his company Afrotone Media from the controversial family in order to win an individual commercial free-to-air television broadcasting service and radio frequency spectrum licence.
The distancing was necessary as two organisations, the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa, had called on the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) not to grant the licence because of the company’s Gupta links.
At The Gathering on Wednesday morning, he slammed what he saw as a lack of support for African content, and asked why Cape Town’s Cullinan Hotel did not offer its guests Afro Worldview in its hotel rooms.
UPDATE: We appear to have misquoted Manyi in an earlier version of this article. We said he had called the Guptas corrupt and attempted to distance himself from them. Rather than accusing the Guptas of driving corruption, he was only noting the effect of their name on the reputation of his media operations. We apologise to Manyi for misinterpreting his words.