Alpha Media Holdings(AMH), publishers of the country’s most popular daily newspaper NewsDay, are in full compliance with Zimbabwean laws contrary to suggestions that the daily’s shareholding was in breach of Section 65 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. (Aippa).
Media reports, allegedly based on US Embassy dispatches to Washington claimed NewsDay’s shareholding was in breach of the law because a US-based organisation Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) had made a $3 million investment into the project.
But yesterday, AMH chairman Trevor Ncube put the record straight. “NewsDay is published by NewsDay Publishers (Private) Limited and 100% of the shares of NewsDay Publishers (Private) Limited are held by Zimind Publishers (Private) Limited. One Hundred percent of shares of Zimind Publishers (Private) Limited are held by Alpha Media Holdings (Private) Limited,” said Ncube.
He added. “Alpha Media Holdings is 61% owned by Vusumuzi Investments (Private) Limited and 39% owned by the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF). Vusumuzi Investments is a 100% Zimbabwean owned company.”
Ncube said MDLF was a not-for-profit venture fund that invests in media in emerging markets. MDLF has investments in Eastern Europe, Russia, South America, Africa and Asia.
“MDLF’s investment in AMH was approved by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Exchange Control department in 2009 prior to the launch of NewsDay in June 2010,” he said. “The application to the RBZ Foreign Exchange department was made in spite of an existing directive that permits inward investment below US$5 million without the need for exchange control approval.”
He said AMH in May last year submitted its applications for newspaper registration in respect of its three titles in terms of Section 66 of Aippa, which requires one to disclose among other requirements the shareholding of the organisation.
Ncube said AMH was a law-abiding corporate citizen which has made a Pledge to the Zimbabwean public to be transparent and accountable among other commitments.
“We are concerned that no effort was made to seek our views on the contents of the Wikileaks cables or inferences arising thereof,”Ncube said “If such comments had been sought it would have been obvious that there was no story or scandal in this matter.”
“We note that the allegations on the shareholding and breaches of the law were not made by the leaked cables but by lazy journalists making certain inferences and reaching wrong conclusions.”
Ncube said the media allegations were defamatory.
“The article, which, without justification, imputes criminal conduct, on the part of Alpha Media Holdings, its directors and shareholders is clearly defamatory. Its publication, without any attempt to verify the facts, suggests that the defamation was intentional or even malicious. We reserve our rights in this regard.”
Ncube pointed out those facts simply did not support the notion of a cover up as AMH letterheads and other company stationery displayed the names of two MDLF board members.
Ncube said the involvement of MDLF in AMH was a matter of public record.
“MDLF directors were present in Harare when we commissioned our printing press in 2010. Also present at this high profile event was Finance Minister Tendai Biti who commended MDLF for showing confidence in the country by investing in AMH. Information Minister Webster Shamu andITC Minister Nelson Chamisa were also present,” Ncube said.
The popularity of NewsDay continues to grow with daily print run now at 52 000 and projected to reach approximately 80 000 in the next six months.
MDLF are also investors in M&G Media Ltd of South Africa which publishes the weekly Mail & Guardian among other publications. MDLF owns 10% of M&G Media.
“Our relationship with MDLF is a commercial one. They expect a return on their investment.Many Zimbabwean companies are struggling to get foreign investors and we are blessed to have MDLF as an investor,” Ncube said.
“MDLF has always been transparent about our investment and ownership stake in AMH. We have confidence in both the editorial integrity and commercial skills of AMH’s management, and we believe in a brighter future for Zimbabwe.
These factors underlie our view that we have made a sound financial investment,” MDLF Director, Jarek Gora said.