Miyeni considers suing over Sowetan dismissal

Sowetan columnist Eric Miyeni is considering taking legal action against his former bosses for sacking him over a column in which he called City Press editor Ferial Haffajee “an agent for white capitalists”.

“I am shocked. I haven’t slept all night,” he said on Tuesday, reacting to his dismissal.

He criticised his former employers at the Sowetan, owned by Avusa, for “not doing their editorial function and then firing journalists afterward”.

In April 2008 former Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya allowed a column by David Bullard into the paper and then apologised for the ensuing outcry over its racist content.

Makhanya was promoted after that, Miyeni said. Bullard was fired.

In February this year the Sunday World published a piece on coloured people, entitled Jou ma se kinders by Kuli Roberts. Roberts’s column was also axed.

“Where is the accountability? You don’t do your job at Avusa [and then], when things go wrong you fire the journalist and then get promoted,” he said.

Makhanya could not immediately be reached for comment.

In his column Miyeni described Haffajee as a “black snake in the grass deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks”.

City Press last week reported about ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s trust, which he allegedly uses to bankroll his lavish lifestyle.

The report resulted in a criminal complaint laid against Malema. The Hawks were still deciding whether to bring corruption charges against him.

Haffajee said she was seeking legal advice and planned to sue Miyeni.

Miyeni said “to be fair”, his column was praised by many.

“Not everybody criticised it ... let me explain. I said to her [Haffajee] in an interview on the radio that if I got my salary from a white company, I would imagine that that company is my master.

“She works for City Press, owned by Naspers, which is largely white.”

In the column, Miyeni also wrote: “In the 80s she’d [Haffajee] probably have had a burning tyre around her neck”.

This was a “metaphor” and not an incitement to violence, he said.

He was illustrating that if a black person in the 1980s was seen to be a “traitor”, they would be “necklaced”.

“The inference is if she was seen to be traitor [in the 80s] this is what would have happened to her.

“My assumption is that we are in a mature country with intelligent people. I can vouch that the column has not been read by anyone as a reason to hurt anyone,” he argued.

The ANC Youth League intended meeting the Sowetan‘s editors, for an explanation of why they fired him.—Sapa



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