Trevor Ncube...outgoing publisher of Mail & Guardian

TREVOR Ncube, the former publisher of The Mail & Guardian of South Africa has left the company following acquisition of the newspaper’s majority shareholding by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF).

A report in the M&G Media Limited website says as part of the same deal, current Chief Executive Officer Hoosain Karjieker becomes a minority shareholder.

Outgoing publisher Ncube is quoted as saying that he takes full responsibility for mistakes made during his tenure, and that these reflect the challenges that all media face in the 21st century.

I have always believed that the M&G should remain a pillar of the South African democracy, and it should exist well beyond any single individual or shareholder. Regrettably – much as I would have loved to – I am no longer in a position to invest in the M&G,” Ncube said.

He added: “Ownership of this institution is equivalent to carrying a baton that gets passed on from generation to generation with just this underlying principle: Editorial independence is sacrosanct. I have often said my role over the past 15 years has been more of a custodian of a great South African asset, than an owner.”

MDIF has worked with M&G for more than a decade and knows the company intimately,” said MDIF CEO Harlan Mandel.

We have invested in M&G because it is a uniquely important media organization with a great future. Its independent reporting has a profound impact on the national debate and it is a beacon for independent journalism across the continent, and indeed the world. We are committed to building on this legacy and re-establishing M&G as a commercially and journalistically dynamic institution at this important time in South African politics.”

The MDIF is a New York-based non-profit organisation. Since its founding in 1996, it has invested $163-million in over 113 publications across 39 countries. It has a long history with the M&G, dating back to a loan that it extended to the company in 2003.

Karjieker, who will continue as CEO, said: “The new ownership will steady the company and provide much-needed financial stability. It will provide a strong and stable platform from which we can refocus on building our business, while safeguarding M&G’s unique blend of quality investigative journalism and balanced political coverage. I would like to underline the fact that MDIF is a not-for-profit company with a mission to support quality independent news media. Interfering in editorial is against its core principles.”

Khadija Patel, editor-in-chief of the M&G, said she was encouraged by the news. “As a small independent publisher, the M&G feels the turmoil of the global media industry acutely. This now presents us with a real opportunity to alleviate our financial difficulties.”

She added that the financial challenges gripping independent publishers imperil media freedom. “It’s the beginning of an exciting chapter for the M&G,” Patel said.