New Age “infogate” scandal

Helen ZilleOver the past six months, the Democratic Alliance has been piecing together information to verify how The New Age newspaper is funded. The picture that emerges is alarming.

The New Age is almost entirely funded by ANC governments at national and provincial levels, which accounts for 77% of its advertising revenue stream alone, despite the fact that it has no audited circulation figures.

The New Age has received at least R64.6 million from the government in the form of advertising revenue and “sponsorships” since December 2010.

It is particularly disturbing that after the DA’s questions in Parliament, the Editor of The New Age, Mr Moegsien Williams, made an appointment to meet a senior DA leader for the express purpose of getting the DA to “back off” from the Parliamentary questions.

“Mr Williams arrived at the DA leader’s home together with Mr Atul Gupta and Mr Nazeem Howa, the chief executive of The New Age. 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 said the Party would continue asking questions in Parliament about the use of public funds”, said Helen Zille, the leader of the Democratic Alliance.

The parallels with the apartheid-era “Infogate” scandal are inescapable. The Information scandal, also known as “Infogate” in the late 1970s, involved the covert channelling of public funds to the Citizen newspaper to subsidise a more “government friendly” English-language newspaper.

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The Citizen newspaper was originally made to appear as if it was a private business initiative of Mr Louis Luyt, a close associate and benefactor of the National Party leaders at that time.

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Both Dr Connie Mulder and Prime Minister John Vorster were forced to resign after a Commission of Inquiry found that they were aware of the public funding used to finance the newspaper.

All the evidence points to the same thing: the ANC are using public money (both overtly and covertly) to fund a newspaper which is openly favourable to their government:

  • At least R27 million was spent by government on advertising in The New Age in less than two years;
  • At least R37 million has been spent by government departments and state-owned entities on sponsorships;

Offices and institutions of state owned enterprises also serve as distribution networks for The New Age to boost its circulation figures, which the newspaper will not submit for audit.

South Africans deserve nothing less than a judicial Commission of Inquiry into the government’s funding of The New Age.