The Star, the Independent newspaper group’s Johannesburg daily, recently pulled its Ekurhuleni reporter from the beat after it was revealed that she was on the books of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality while working for the newspaper.
According to municipal manager Patrick Flusk, he was told by Ekurhuleni metro police boss Robert McBride at the end of last year that Anna Louw was contracted by the municipality on a freelance basis while working for The Star.
Louw wrote numerous articles on McBride’s drunk-driving case and payments made by the municipality to McBride’s attorneys and forensic firm Pasco.
After investigating the matter, Flusk reported it to The Star editor Moegsien Williams, who immediately pulled Louw from the Ekurhuleni beat and moved her to the sub-editors’ desk.
Williams then sent out the following email to staff members: ”We have had another case where a person has breached the company rules about ‘moonlighting’. Please be advised that you require the editor’s permission in writing for any work that is undertaken outside the company. This applies even if there is no conflict of interest.”
According to Flusk, he was shocked to discover that the municipality was paying Louw and has established that her contract was extended on a month-to-month basis. It is estimated that she received about R250 000 from Ekurhuleni for ”writing and editing” articles for the municipality’s website.
”Up to today we haven’t seen these articles,” Flusk told the Mail & Guardian.
The Star‘s deputy editor, Jovial Rantao, was sent questions about Louw’s ”moonlighting” and whether it influenced her articles, but replied that he could not comment ”because it is not company policy to disclose confidential information”.