The sale of the former Gupta building that once housed the defunct ANN7 news channel and The New Age newspaper in Midrand is hanging in the balance, amid claims that the building is being stripped of valuable contents.
Businessman Nazeer Noormohamed, who owns a TV station and several local newspapers in Pretoria, said that he informed the building’s auctioneers that they were “in breach of contract” and that he was considering cancelling the transaction.
He claims that the building is being stripped on the instruction of Afrotone Media Holdings, the company chaired by Mzwanele Manyi, which bought the news station and newspaper from the Guptas in a controversial vendor financing deal.
Noormohamed claims that Afrotone is making off with everything from the satellite receivers to the air conditioning system, which he claims he saw when he visited the building last week.
“After learning that the assets of the property were being stripped, on behalf of the existing tenant or their representatives [Afrotone Media Holdings], we called the auctioneers, who said they were not responsible for securing the building,” he said.
“We instructed our lawyer to see how best we could get out of the transaction, as we believed that the property was not sold in good faith. When we went to the property, we found about 15 air conditioners being stripped and loaded on to a lorry. We also noticed that a huge central cooling system was also stripped.
“So were three huge transformers that were bolted to the ground, [but are now] gone.”
Noormohamed said he was told by a contractor at the scene that the two large electronic boards and satellite dishes fixed on the property were also being sold by representatives of Afrotone.
“We are still interested in purchasing the property, but only provided that all the fixed assets that have been stripped are reinstalled,” he said.
Approached for comment, Manyi referred questions to former Afrotone director Sifiso Mthethwa, and said that he had “moved on”.
Mthethwa said that they only removed “movable assets”, in line with the contract of sale.
Asked if an air-conditioning system was regarded as a movable asset, he said he would consult with his colleagues and get back to City Press.
He did not do so.
Noormohamed bid R29.5 million for the building in November last year and claims to have already paid an R8 million deposit, “and will be demanding it back”.
He claims that his lawyers are in discussions with the auctioneers and business rescue practitioners to discuss cancelling the sale altogether.
But Clive Lazarus of Park Village Auctions, who conducted the sale, said he was unaware of the deal being cancelled and unaware that the building was being “stripped”.
The auctioneers were appointed by business rescue practitioners, who tasked them with selling the property and some equipment in the building after the practitioners decided that both the TV station and the newspaper could not be salvaged.