The owners of Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) or “Gupta TV”, clearly have a lot of faith in former government spin doctor, Jimmy Manyi.
Not only did they headhunt him to anchor their weekly interview show, Straight Talk, they’re also putting him up against the likes of Chiefs, Pirates, the Boks, the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods.
The show is scheduled to go out every Saturday afternoon at 3.30pm on DStv channel 405 — when other channels have their premier sport offerings.
ANN7, an initiative of Infinity Media — a joint venture between India’s Essel Media and Oakbay Investments, which is owned by the influential and controversial Gupta family — was launched at a glitzy gala dinner at the Sandton Convention Centre on August 22.
The event featured performances by Zulu dancers, singer Zahara and new rapper on the block Kwesta — whose spirited performance seemed slightly incongruent to the grand and formal setting of the launch venue.
South Africa’s new communications minister, Yunus Carrim, delivered the keynote speech and launched the channel with ANN7 editor in chief, Moegsien Williams.
Other guests included former minister in the presidency and current editor of The Thinker magazine, Essop Pahad; ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu; and the Indian high commissioner, Virendra Gupta.
Manyi, looking dapper in a tailored black suit, worked the room at the ANN7 launch, and spoke candidly to the Mail & Guardian about his new career.
“I was headhunted,” he says matter-of-factly.
“They were looking for someone fresh and bold who is able to deal with different and difficult issues.”
He adds that the show’s name is modelled on his character.
“You get it how it is. With me it’s black or white, right or wrong. I’m genuine; when I smile I’m sincere and not buying face.”
And don’t expect sensationalism on his show, warns Manyi, who says Straight Talk will draw from Oprah Winfrey and Larry King’s styles.
“I’ve never seen them [Oprah and King] covering the superficial and sensational side. They get to the substance of the issue and that’s what I aim to do. There are enough shows on the market for those who want sensationalism,” Manyi says.
Some may argue that Manyi was “headhunted” purely because he is such a controversial figure.
The 49-year-old ruffled some feathers last year when he told motorists e-tolls in Gauteng are a reality.
“It’s a fact of life and it’s going to happen,” he said.
But Manyi was more notoriously known for a statement he made during his tenure as director general of labour in 2010 — about there being an oversupply of coloured people in the Western Cape.
In response to a question pertaining to his controversial statement and life thereafter, Manyi said: “If such a honourable man such as Jesus Christ, who brought good news and salvation, was harmed very viciously on the cross, who am I?
“I apologised because people got hurt by that statement. However, I was grossly misrepresented and I must voice my disappointment towards academics and analysts who formed their opinions on a 30-second clip and didn’t bother to take the time to listen to the whole clip.
“I lost all respect for these so-called experts and their inability to make an informed decision shows the shallowness we have in this country.”