/ 7 September 2007

Manto’s revenge: Govt may pull ads

Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad is not yet pursuing his opinion that the government should pull advertising from the Sunday Times, presidential spokesperson Mukhoni Ratshitanga said on Friday.

He explained at length that Pahad, who is the political head of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), was only expressing a personal view and that it was not government policy.

”It is just a view, albeit a very strong one,” Ratshitanga said.

Asked whether the minister had taken steps to put his idea into action, Ratshitanga said ”not that I’m aware of”.

GCIS is responsible for placing government advertising in the media, which mainly consisted of employment opportunities.

Pahad held the view that the government should pull its advertising from the Sunday Times after the newspaper’s recent reports alleging that Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was a drunk and a thief.

The government had accused the paper of being sensationalist and said it was not only the reports on Tshabalala-Msimang that were of concern.

Should it decide to cut advertising from South Africa’s largest Sunday newspaper, it would mean revenue loss of millions of rands for its owners Johncom.

Neither Johncom’s CEO Prakash Desai nor the editor of the Sunday Times Mondli Makanya could be reached for comment.

GCIS head Themba Maseko was also not immediately available for comment.

Integrity and transparency

Meanwhile, the row over Tshabalala-Msimang is casting doubt on government’s integrity and transparency, says South Africa’s largest and oldest Pentecostal church.

”The media disclosures about the health minister have caused damage, but the banning of an MP from Parliament for raising a question about the row has far-reaching consequences,” the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM) said on Friday.

It was referring to the five-day suspension of Democratic Alliance MP Mike Waters on Thursday for what Speaker Baleka Mbete referred to as ”outrageous, disrespectful and grossly disorderly” conduct in the National Assembly the day before.

There was an uproar in the National Assembly on Wednesday, when Mbete told Waters to leave after a written question he posed to Tshabalala-Msimang — asking whether she had been convicted of theft in 1976 while employed at a hospital in Botswana — was ruled out of order.

In a statement signed by its four national office bearers on Friday, the AFM, which has a membership of 1,2-million, said the ”core integrity” of South Africa’s democracy was being undermined by an inability to face up to facts and give a truthful explanation to the nation.

”All that South African voters are asking for is the truth. Alleged moral short-comings of the minister of health have been exposed by the media, and there is also factual evidence relating to incompetence within her portfolio for which she is responsible.

”As a church we deal daily with moral failures of people, and we know that the simple remedy is confession and the telling of the truth.

”We believe that the minister would receive a more favourable response if she were to give the public some truthful answers,” the AFM said.

It said the row surrounding Tshabalala-Msimang, the hasty firing of her deputy Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and the ”gagging” of the DA’s member of Parliament were doing serious internal and international damage to South Africa. – Sapa, AFP