The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have hit back at demands that the party withdraw the statements it made against the Gupta family, saying they will not back down.
This follows a decision from the EFF leader Julius Malema, to publicly ban the Gupta-run New Age newspaper and ANN7 news agency from future events.
In an open letter addressed to the New Age editor Moegsien Williams, the EFF accused the Gupta family of running criminal enterprises in South Africa, and engaging in money laundering and racketeering with president Jacob Zuma.
The New Age in particular has caught the party’s ire, with allegations that it is simply a tool to siphon money from government through its “New Age Breakfasts”.
“Not excluding the fact that the circulation and readership figures of The New Age are not audited by Audit Bureau of Circulations, SAA spent R2.4 million with the paper in the 2014/2015 financial year,” the EFF said.
“Eskom was reported to have signed off a R43 million contract to sponsor the New Age Breakfast over three years.”
Additionally, there are reports that Department of Trade and Industry spent R2 million worth of advertising with TNA in a space of three years. Justice and Correctional Services spent R1.5 million, Department of Higher Education spent R2 million in the same period.
In 2011, there were further reports that at least R27 million was spent by the government on advertising over a two year period, whilst R37 million was spent by government departments and state owned entities, the EFF said.
The party noted that the paper gets distributed in government departments, offices as well as state entities, with the SAA alone purchasing more than 5.9 copies of the paper in 2011.
“The TNA is involved in state corruption and this is reflected in the unreasonable and unexplained expenditure of government’s advertisement since its conception,” the EFF said.
We love the journalists – but not who they represent
The EFF came under fire for its comments about TNA and ANN7 journalists, which Malema said could not be guaranteed safety at its events.
“We cannot guarantee the safety of Gupta employees at our events … we are warning you peacefully here, brothers and sisters,” he said.
The South African Editors Forum said that the comment was dangerous, and that the party should allow journalists to conduct their jobs, despite personal beliefs about the media owners.
However, the EFF said that there was no threat of violence towards journalists – some of who it acknowledged are even EFF memebers – but reiterated that they would be caught in the “crossfire” in the party’s stance against the Guptas.
“We reiterate that TNA and ANN7 are banned from all EFF events, not as journalists, but whoever comes in the name of these publications and broadcasters,” it said.
“This means we distinguish between journalists and the Gupta criminal enterprises. For as long as journalists come to represent or report on behalf of TNA or ANN7, they are not welcome.”
The EFF reiterated its demand that the Guptas immediately disengage from all affairs, government, business and media in South Africa and leave the country.