Sanef, ANC hit out at Zille’s call to cancel Cape Times subscription

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille remains unrepentant of her directive for the withdrawal of all provincial department subscriptions to the Cape Times newspaper amid a condemnation by the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef).

On Monday, Sanef said it would send a letter of protest to the Western Cape government calling for them to rescind the decision, which is widely seen as a boycott.

Last Monday the director general of the Western Cape, Brent Gerber, wrote to provincial department heads directing them not to renew their subscriptions with the newspaper or initiate new ones.

“Sanef finds it appalling that the executive committee of the Western Cape government, led by former journalist Helen Zille, interferes at this level in the affairs of provincial department heads, who should have the freedom to choose which news mediums they find useful or not,” Sanef chair Mpumelelo Mkhabela said in a statement.

Zille hit back, questioning when Sanef would issue a statement about the Cape Times plagiarising information.

“That might be a more logical place to start,” Zille told the Mail & Guardian via SMS.

She also insists that they are avoiding a wastage of tax payers’ money.

Decline in the quality of journalism
The directive to end subscriptions with the Cape Times appear to have been spurred by the editor of the paper refusing to put Zille’s administration in touch with the family of a baby suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome which the paper wrote about.

“If the paper is so dismissive of our requests for assistance to find this child and the alleged perpetrators of crimes against similar children, one must ask the question: what exactly is at play here?,” Zille wrote in her weekly newsletter.

She insinuated in her newsletter that the story, which apparently is scant on details, appears to be partly identical to a piece written by a researcher called Eric Graham, and published on the World Socialist Website in August 2012.


“Cabinet has discussed with concern the ongoing decline in the quality of reporting in the Cape Times. As we get newspaper cuttings every day, Cabinet considers it to be fruitless expenditure to renew Cape Times subscriptions,” Gerber wrote in his directive last week.

Grocott’s Mail
The ANC issued a statement on Monday morning saying the action of the Western Cape government was an attack on the freedom of speech and media freedom.

“The DA-led government is using its financial muscle derived from taxpayers’ monies to punish those who dare publish independent views it perceives as being at odds with the DA’s misguided, sensationalist and anti-ANC narrative,” the ANC’s Zizi Kodwa wrote in a statement.

This is not the first time an arm of government tried to boycott a newspaper based on its reporting.

In 2008, the Makana local municipality called for a boycott of the Grocott’s Mail in the Eastern Cape following the publication of a story about an unaccounted R13.7-million missing from the municipal coffers.

Sanef at the time dubbed the boycott an “indefensible” act.

The matter was later settled out of court between the municipality and the newspaper.

Sunday Times
In a more publicised attempt to punish the media, former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad called for a boycott on the Sunday Times following an exposé on Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, then minister of health.

Pahad’s statements in 2007 were met with widespread condemnation.

DA spokesperson Marius Redelinghuys used Twitter to deny that the Western Cape government was punishing the Cape Times.

“Cancelling a subscription is a protest, cancelling millions of rands worth of advertising is intimidation and punishment,” he tweeted.

Redelinghuys said the cancellation of subscriptions was not the same as ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe call for a boycott of City Press newspaper in 2012 for publishing a picture of a painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

“If the Western Cape government has an issue with the quality of content in the Cape Times, they should address it with the editor of that newspaper or through complaints to the office of the Press Ombudsman, and not by effectively calling for a government boycott of the Cape Times,” Sanef said in a statement.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Safety at schools: ‘Keep your distance and your pen’

The department of basic education has developed guidelines to assist schools with minimising the spread of the coronavirus

‘Soon he’ll be seen as threatening, not cute’: What it’s...

There is no separating George Floyd’s killing from the struggles black people have faced ever since the first slave ships landed on these shores

How schools could work during Covid

Ahead of their opening, the basic education department has given schools three models to consider to ensure physical distancing
Advertising

Press Releases

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday