By Linda Ensor
CAPE TOWN — The funding of The New Age newspaper by the African National Congress (ANC) governments at national and provincial level should be investigated by a judicial commission of inquiry‚ Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille said at a media briefing on Wednesday (30/01/2013).
She said she had written to President Jacob Zuma to establish such a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the extent of state funding of the newspaper and the legality of using public money to fund a pro-government newspaper that was ostensibly started by a benefactor of Zuma and the ANC‚ namely the Gupta family.
The DA has calculated that about 77% of the newspaper’s advertising revenue came from government advertising‚ even though its circulation figures have not been audited and that it was likely that this was just the "tip of the iceberg". The party’s research had determined that government advertising and sponsorships had generated R64.6m for the New Age since December 2010.
Zille said the scandal could be likened to the apartheid era "Infogate” in the late 1970s. This involved the covert channelling of public funds to The Citizen newspaper‚ a government friendly English-language newspaper. She said government departments and state owned entities were reportedly being coerced into buying advertising space and buying The New Age at inflated prices.
The funding of The New Age breakfasts by state owned enterprises has created a huge furore following a newspaper expose that Eskom and Transnet in particular had forked out R25m jointly for the events. In protest Zille withdrew from a function at which she was scheduled to be the guest speaker.
Another source of controversy has emerged that Zille had accepted personal donations of R300‚000 in 2009 from Stephan Nel‚ a business executive of a Gupta company‚ Sahara Computers and R100‚000 from a Gupta company on behalf of the DA.
Zille went to great lengths to explain the circumstances in which this occurred and revealed that she had decided two years ago to ban any further donations being accepted by the DA from the Gupta family and their companies.
"All the evidence points to the same thing: the ANC is using public money (both overtly and covertly) to fund a newspaper which is openly favourable to the government‚” Zille said.
Zille revealed that The New Age editor Moegsien Williams‚ The New Age CE Nazeem Howa and Gupta visited the home of a DA federal chairman Wilmot James at the end of last year with the aim of getting the DA to back off from parliamentary questions about advertising by government departments and state owned enterprises in their newspaper.
"The three adopted a ’heavy-handed’ approach and said the DA should be aware of the fact that the Independent Group would soon be bought by a well known ANC sympathiser and that this would be very bad for the DA. They suggested it would be best if the DA did not make an enemy of The New Age. The DA leader (James) said the party would continue asking questions in Parliament about the use of public funds‚” Zille said. - BDlive