Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-09-08 Reporter: Sapa

'Freedom of the Press is a Licence to Kill'



Mail and Guardian

Date 2003-09-08



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Freedom of the press has become a licence to kill," Mpumalanga Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu said in a half-page advertisement in Sunday's City Press.

In a closely typed attack on the media, headlined "The Naked Truth about the Mpumalanga Reshuffle", Mahlangu said: "The press is an old institution and has carried with it, through time, old habits.

"One of the habits is that of sending black people to jail. Firstly we were slaves which is equivalent to a life-style of life-time imprisonment; then, during the previous regime, black people were sent to jail for expressing their political opinion.

"Now black people are sent to jail for displaying any form of economic success. In the last couple of months the press has been trying to send every black official to jail including the president himself."

The Mpumalanga premier made headlines this week after reshuffling his cabinet to rectify "instances of mismanagement" and "alleged wrongdoing" discovered by a series of forensic audits.

He said that a daily paper alleged that the KPMG forensic report into the Mpumalanga department of health had been leaked to the media.

"... in English this means that members of the press stole the report," Mahlangu said.

Among those reshuffled were former provincial minister of health Sibongile Manana, who was made provincial minister of sports, recreation, arts and culture. Forensic audits found evidence that Manana and Rena Charles, her director general, had presided over a department where there were many abuses designed to profit relatives and close associates.

These included grossly mismanaging the province's R19-million HIV/Aids budget, including artificially "padded" equipment orders that resulted in fruitless expenditure of R13,7-million, and tampering with tenders. In May the premier placed the health department under curatorship.

The forensic audits followed a negative report on the department by the auditor general earlier this year.

However, Mahlangu lambasted the mostly black-owned and black-run media for its reporting on the cabinet reshuffle saying, "the danger with the media in South Africa is that it has elevated itself above the judiciary ... People are accused, prosecuted and sentenced in the courts of public opinion conducted by media agencies of dubious intent ...

"Imagine what a dispossessed Zimbabwean would do if they were allowed to become journalists in our country. I can imagine that they would attempt to kill the Mugabe in all black political leaders."

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Mail & Guardian.