Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi, owner of the Gupta-founded TV station ANN7, has laughed off allegations made in an explosive book which hit the shelves yesterday.
Written by a former editor at the station, Rajesh Sundaram, Indentured – Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV details ANN7’s formative months in which he describes former president Jacob Zuma’s uncanny influence on decisions taken by the Guptas during this time – including the name of the station and its editorial style.
He also recounts allegations he originally made in 2013 about how Atul Gupta and business partner Laxmi Goel threatened him and had him followed and harassed after he resigned.
He said they were trying at first to persuade him to stay and ultimately trying to force him to waive some of the money due to him.
Gupta, in particular, is described as ruthless, often shouting at his employees and keeping them under close surveillance.
The book alleges that Zuma suggested Manyi as a candidate for one of the station’s current affairs shows and describes how Zuma insisted that the former government spokesperson be hired, despite apparently failing miserably during a dry-run of the show.
“He will be most-suited for your talk shows. If you want, I will speak with him as well,” Zuma supposedly told the Gupta brothers. “I am sure there are many presenters available. Just do let me know if there is any high-profile journalist you may have selected.”
Asked for comment, Manyi responded on WhatsApp with three rows of laugh emojis and eventually said in Xhosa: “If you are short for news stories, don’t make that my problem.”
Among other revelations were several indications the Guptas were given special treatment by the department of home affairs.
Sundaram describes his suspicion that associates were being allowed to illegally process dozens of work permits and visas for workers they shipped in from India in the hurried months leading up to the station’s launch.
The home affairs department was not available for comment.