Staff Writer and Sapa
DA leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s fallout with The New Age took another turn yesterday when the provincial government said it would report the newspaper to the Press Ombudsman.
This after the newspaper published a report about the province extending its contract with marketing agency TBWA/Hunt Lascaris. Under the headline “Zille in contract fix”, the paper cited leaked documents which stated it would cost the province R1 million a month for a six-month extension and another R1m for each month after that, and said Zille had confirmed the extension.
The communications contract was supposed to end on December 31.
The documents also disclosed that provincial director- general Brent Gerber wrote in May that there was a decision not to extend the contract, and Zille had agreed.
“The New Age’s front page lead today is as hysterical, inaccurate and obstinate as a rebuked three-year-old. The headline and story are factually inaccurate, misleading. We will be submitting a formal complaint to the Press Ombudsman,” provincial government director of strategic communication Nick Clelland said in a statement yesterday.
He said the new contract was an extension of current service and to ensure the tender process for a new communications contract was correct.
The previous communications tender was awarded to TBWA/Hunt Lascaris in 2010.
In August 2011, the ANC asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate whether the contract was irregular, following a newspaper report that correct supply chain management procedures were not followed.
In her final report, Madonsela made four findings of maladministration but none of unlawfulness. She did not recommend the contract be scrapped.
Zille’s spat with The New Age began when she withdrew from its business breakfasts ostensibly because they were sponsored by parastatals Transnet and Eskom among others. She claimed it amounted to the channelling of public money to the newspaper, owned by the Gupta family who are supporters of the ANC and President Jacob Zuma. It emerged that last year she had attended a New Age breakfast sponsored by Telkom.
The Weekend Argus quoted unnamed sources as saying Zille went to the Guptas’ home in Johannesburg in 2011 to ask for a donation and had left with a substantial cheque.
Zille said that in the run-up to the 2009 elections, DA North West leader Chris Hattingh had told the fund-raising office an acquaintance wanted to donate to the DA’s election campaign.
Zille met the donor and received a R200 000 pledge. “The donor then suggested that I fetch the cheque at the Guptas’ house in Saxonwold, and it transpired that he was a senior executive in one of the Guptas’ companies.”