In Zimbabwe, Gerald Mlotshwa – a prominent lawyer and a relative of the country’s President – has formally bought a significant equity stake at the privately-owned multimedia house Alpha Media Holdings (AMH), run by local publisher Trevor Ncube.
According to media reports, the sale comes amid a mixture of operational challenges within the company after it emerged this week that management told representatives of workers during a works council meeting that it intends to retrench 30 per cent of employees due to mounting recurrent losses weighing down the company, which has been technically insolvent for years due to a debt overhang and fast dwindling revenue inflows fuelled by economic problems and technological disruptions.
Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) is a leading media group in Zimbabwe, publishing the NewsDay, The Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent, and online broadcasting platform, Heart & Soul Radio/TV.
AMH ranks high with the listed state-controlled Zimpapers, the publicly-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, privately-run Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe and AB Communications.
According to media reports, Mlotshwa now owns 39 per cent 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 an accompanying financial disaster.
According to BMA sources, AMH had plans to make company chief executive Kenias Mafukidze a shareholder as part of his generous package, which cushions him against shocks of poor financial performance through questionable foreign currency payouts.
Commenting on the matter, Mafukidze said he could not speak on the shareholder’s issue as it is outside his remit. He, however, confirmed in the process that Mlotshwa had become a shareholder at AMH by referring to him as a “principal”.
The MDIF is a New York-based not-for-profit investment fund for independent media in countries where repressive regimes threaten free Press. It has more than 20 years of experience helping build quality news and information companies – print, digital and broadcast – in emerging markets.
It has invested more than US$163 million in 113 media companies in 39 countries on five continents; a current portfolio of more than US$60 million is invested in over 50 media organisations, reports note.