Home Affairs and immigration officials visited the offices of the embattled ANN7 channel on Thursday afternoon for a “routine inspection” Staff members have told News24 how they “have never seen something like that before”. Earlier this year, MultiChoice announced it would not be renewing its license with the channel, after it was bought by Mzwanele Manyi from the Gupta family’s company Oakbay.
Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said it was part of the department’s mandate to undertake regular inspections. “As part of its mandate, the inspectorate directorate of the department undertakes regular inspections on the basis of information provided to them, which information would demand a thorough investigation including in loco inspections,” he said. “In this regard, our officials visited ANN7 Studios to verify information related to visas of certain individuals employed by the organisation,” Mokgola said.
One employee at ANN7 told News24 immigration officers came for staff members recruited from India. “The office was filled with immigration officers. I have never seen something like that before.
The employees that were recruited from India were taken into an office, and they looked nervous. We don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “I am not sure how many staff members we have from India but it’s a lot,” the employee said.
“When I saw immigration I was rejoicing,” he added. Another employee said he was about to leave when he saw immigration officers on the premises. “I just saw some immigration officers inside a certain room where we host our guests.
It was about four of them that I saw,” he said.
Manyi did not immediately answer his phone for comments.
ICASA has confirmed it will conduct an investigation into MultiChoice. This follows a complaint by the DA in November 2017 requesting ICASA to conduct an inquiry into payments made by MultiChoice to ANN7 and the SABC. The payments were allegedly in exchange for political influence over the government’s policy on digital migration (in its favour).
ICASA indicated that the matter has been referred to its Compliance and Consumer Affairs division for investigation. The DA said in a press statement it is “pleased that ICASA has agreed that the payments require investigation”. “South Africa deserves to know whether the payments were indeed above board, as MultiChoice has maintained,” said the DA.
“While companies like MultiChoice should be allowed the space to do business and create much-needed employment, their conduct must at all times be within the bounds of the law, in line with business ethics and in an environment where competition is not stifled.”
The political party added that while there is no issue with companies lobbying for policy positions through debate, a situation where policy is bought cannot be allowed.
- ^ The DA said in a press statement (www.da.org.za)
- ^ MultiChoice launching investigation into ANN7 deal (mybroadband.co.za)
US law firm Pomerantz LLP announced it is investigating whether Naspers and its officers and directors engaged in securities fraud or unlawful business practices. Pomerantz is investigating claims related to potential improper payments to ANN7 on behalf of Naspers. The claims follow reports that MultiChoice paid kickbacks to the SABC and ANN7 to buy political influence on set-top box non-encryption.
MultiChoice’s decision to increase its ANN7 channel payment from R50 million to R141 million per year is at the centre of this. It is also alleged that MultiChoice paid kickbacks to the SABC totalling R100 million per year. MultiChoice denied the allegations, while its parent Naspers said there was a “persistent baiting of Naspers to intervene in the affairs of MultiChoice”.
Former Communications Minister Yunus Carrim said MultiChoice used its agreement with the SABC to change government policy on conditional access and further its commercial interests.
“The only entity which benefitted from ensuring that [encryption] was dropped is MultiChoice,” said Carrim.
- ^ US law firm Pomerantz LLP announced (www.prnewswire.com)
- ^ It’s all about MultiChoice protecting its DStv monopoly – Former Minister (mybroadband.co.za)