THE Democratic Media Trust of Namibia, created with left-over millions from a slush fund of the former South African government to fight Swapo during the 1989 independence election, will now divest itself of the media.
The trust was set up to "to promote democracy, a free press and a free-market economy in Namibia" and has since its establishment in November 1989 owned newspapers and a printing press.
Yesterday, the trust announced that it had sold its 50 per cent stake in Democratic Media Holdings (DMH) to Stimulus Investments, a Namibia-based private equity investment company. The other 50 per cent of DMH is owned by Media24, a South African media group.
Announcing the move, the trust's founder, Dirk Mudge, said the trust will now invest in broad-based technical and vocational training, and in development projects and job creation for marginalised societies in Namibia.
"A scholarship fund for technical and vocational training, and a development fund for community development through the establishment of sustainable projects will be established and funded by the trust through the sale of its shares in DMH," said Mudge.
In 2007, when it was decided to sell a 50% shareholding in DMH to Media24, part of the proceeds from the sale were committed to the Polytechnic of Namibia for the establishment of a media training facility.
Mudge said since a well-equipped facility of this nature already existed, and since the Polytechnic was in dire need of a hospitality training facility, the trust agreed that its donation could go towards assisting them in this endeavour.
About N$6 million of the money donated was then used to buy Kleines Heim Pension Hotel and Conference Facility, a hospitality facility owned by Henk Mudge, the son of Dirk Mudge.
The ownership and control of the Democratic Media Trust by the Mudge family did not go unchallenged, since the DTA also lay claim to the slush funds with which the trust was formed.
The DTA claimed that the group's newspapers, Republikein and Allgemeine Zeitung, and its printing press belonged to the party, arguing that the slush funds earmarked for the party were used to start DMH.
In October 2000 Mudge confirmed that DMH had paid more than N$8,6 million to the DTA between 1990 and 1997 "out of sympathy for the masses" and because he "believed in an ideal".
However, Mudge said the DTA's insistence that it should take over DMH was "nonsense" and the leaders should prove the party's ownership claims.
He said "financially and legally" DMT and the DTA were not linked.
Mudge again yesterday reiterated that the DTA has nothing to do with DMH, stating that the trust started when the Republican Party broke away from the then National Party in 1977.