THE BLOG
02/02/2018 13:47 SAST | Updated 02/02/2018 13:48 SAST

'That Was The Old ANN7, The New ANN7 Should Get A Fair Chance'

A company with such a rotten history [such as Naspers] should understand that companies can renew and repurpose themselves and break away from what they were initially designed to be.

Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters

COMMENT

Naspers, the owner of MultiChoice, was founded by JBM Hertzog, the same man who founded the National Party. It was to be used as a mass-communication tool to agitate for the establishment of a South African Republic that would be divided along strict racial lines, which would be enforced through legislation and not societal norms, as was the case at the time.

Naspers went on to market and sell apartheid to the world, and Naspers became the mouthpiece of the most reviled system in modern history. But the company is repositioning itself as an organisation reborn, an organisation that is moving away from its teleology as a tool of oppression, as envisioned by its founder.

In a public display of breaking with its past, in 2015 Media24 CEO Esmaré Weideman apologised for the role that Naspers had played during apartheid.

A company with such a rotten history should, more than any other, understand that companies can renew and repurpose themselves and break away from what they were initially designed to be – even if they began as a mouthpiece for whatever rotten agenda its founders were pushing.

The old ANN7, just like the old Naspers, was founded with nefarious agendas.

The first was for ANN7 to engage in a corrupt relationship with Naspers, by accepting bribes in return for political influence in changing the country's broadcasting policy.

The second agenda was for ANN7 to be the mouthpiece of the Gupta family, and the third was to defend the ANC and its president.

However, that was the old ANN7, under the ownership of the Gupta family. The new ANN7 under Mzwanele Manyi ought to be afforded the opportunity to renew and repurpose itself.

This must not include expectations of a change in editorial policy, however, but rather a legitimate expectation for a change in its business practices, to relinquish state capture and other corrupt activities.

The decision by Naspers to succumb to threats of a boycott, therefore, brings to the fore the economics of hypocrisy that have gripped not only that company, but other parts of the South African body politic.

The fact that it has to be pointed out, in 2018, that black people aren't all the same, is mildly depressing.

Naspers and the homogeneity of blackness

The decision to terminate the ANN7 contract was followed by a bizarre announcement that Naspers will find "another" black news station to replace ANN7. This comment is a nauseating reminder that there still exists, in corporate South Africa, an ignorant assumption of the homogeneity of black people, and therefore that they are replaceable.

The notion that "a black news station" can be taken off the air today and tomorrow be easily replaced by "another black one", is the kind of corporate thinking that has seen black people depicted dancing in tea adverts and washing powder adverts. It's also the reason why in every short-term loan advert there's always a black person on the borrowing side of the desk – this is a denigration of the nuances of black identity.

There are convergences and divergences in black thought, erudition and views, which Naspers' limited range cannot even begin to reach.

This limitation is plainly obvious by the built-in supposition that a Jimmy Manyi station could easily be replaced by a Tbo Touch station, and that one easily replaced by a DJ Sbu station or a Given Mkhari station – the differences between their listeners render any assumption of homogeneity not only absurd, but also insulting.

These stations, owners and viewers, though black, have views that converge and diverge as distinctly and subtly as CNN does with Fox news, or eNCA with SABC News, or CNBC Africa with Business Day TV.

The fact that it has to be pointed out, in 2018, that black people aren't all the same, is mildly depressing.

Conclusion

We don't need one black-owned station to replace another black-owned station. We actually need omunye [one] black-owned station phezu komunye [on top of another] black-owned station, to reflect the vast and colourful kaleidoscope that is black thought in all its permutations.

So if MultiChoice is looking for a new black-owned news station, great – but that should not be at the expense of the other black-owned news station they already have. This thing of "only one black at the table at a time" must fall – MultiChoice should not cut any black-owned stations, but rather give us more.