ALPHA Media Holdings (AMH) chairperson Trevor Ncube (pictured) has admitted that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son-in-law Gerald Mlotshwa owns a stake in the company, and has said his involvement in the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) was national service.
This comes amid a cocktail of operational challenges within the company. AMH, one of the biggest media groups in Zimbabwe, publishes the NewsDay, The Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent, as well as operating an online broadcasting platform, Heart & Soul Radio/ TV.
Mlotshwa, a prominent corporate and commercial lawyer, now owns 39% of AMH after the New York-based Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) exited the group as a loan client where it had remained when Ncube was pushed out of South Africa’s leading investigative newspaper, Mail & Guardian, due to a failure of his ambitious digital expansion programme and a concomitant financial disaster.
Mlotshwa’s involvement as a shareholder has been viewed as a stumbling block in criticising Mnangagwa or exposing his shortcomings, by AMH, making it hard to break the chains of media capture.
Responding to students at a Press Club gathering held at Harare Polytechnic last week, Ncube, a former member of the PAC, said Mlotshwa’s shareholding does not affect the quality of AMH’s output.
“He is a shareholder not because of that, but because he is a businessman. He is entitled to being a shareholder. When we were looking for a shareholder, I asked Dumisani Muleya (former Zimbabwe Independent editor) to find shareholders with US$2 million. If they were there, they could come and buy shares because we were under pressure.
“There was no one with US$2 million. Gerald was the one with the money to buy the shareholding. It was a business transaction, not because he was a son-in-law. We have a board of directors [with] people like Sternford Moyo. You cannot play around a guy like that. So for me, institutions are very important, but much more important is that we protect the journalists who operate under our banner.
“Yes, there is truth to that. It is official. Gerald Mlotshwa is now a shareholder at AMH. I am a shareholder at the AMH and the CEO of AMH, Kenias Mafukidze, is a shareholder as well. “We have always been clear that shareholders should not meddle in the papers. My passion is for professional journalism and to protect journalists from external influence. Advertisers are one of the biggest bullies inasmuch as interference is concerned.
“My role as the chairman is to create an environment that would enable our journalists to practice without interference. It is not a secret that Mlotshwa is now a shareholder and that he is sonin-law to President Mnangagwa,” he said.
Ncube said: “Another thing is that I have said, we will not allow our papers to be used to promote Nelson Chamisa, or anybody else. We will not allow that to happen. You can support Nelson Chamisa from your home, but when you get to our office, leave your political bias at the gate.
“Same as when you are supporting Zanu PF, you have to leave your impartiality at the gate,” he said.
Before Ncube quit Mnangagwa’s PAC last year in exasperation after jumping onto the 2017 military coup gravy train with intolerant exuberance, he could not criticise Mnangagwa as he was one of the members of his advisory, which has now all but collapsed.
Ncube only attacked Mnangagwa and the coup-plotters he initially cheered in March when he made public his resignation during his sour grapes address at the BizNews Conference in the Drakensberg, South Africa, last year.
Asked whether he had left PAC after failing to get a licence for his online TV platform Heart & Soul, Ncube said he had joined as a form of national service.
“Why did I join the PAC? For me, it was a way of serving my country. I joined the PAC not to support Zanu PF or to support Mnangagwa, but to help him run this country in a better way. When I discovered that he was not the person I thought he was, I walked away. “But there are people who would like to associate my joining of the PAC as if it tarnished our brand. They have no evidence to prove that it actually happened,” he said.