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New Age: Zille's inquiry request is clownish

New Age newspaper has snubbed Helen Zille’s calls for an inquiry into how the paper is being funded.

The front page of the New Age newspaper on 31 January 2013. Picture: Lesego Ngobeni/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The editor of the New Age newspaper on Wednesday hit back at Democratic Alliance Leader Helen Zille after she called for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the newspaper is being funded.

Editor Moegsien Williams said it is stupid to ask the president to set up a commission.

"I think it's rather clownish for a leader of the main opposition party in our country to ask the president to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate a tiny newspaper."

Instead, Williams said they are willing to allow an independent auditor to scrutinise their books.

"We are agreeable for an independent auditor to go through our books, see what has come in and what has gone out and whether we have funneled any money to the ANC."

ZILLE ALL FIRED UP

The Western Cape Premier made claims that the newspaper received at least R64, 6 million from government in the form of advertising and sponsorships since December 2010.

She recently pulled out of a New Age breakfast briefing because the event was being sponsored by state owned enterprises who had forked out of millions of rands.

She was then criticised for saying state funds were being used to bankroll a privately owned newspaper and indirectly the 'coffers of the ANC'.

The DA leader has also been in the spotlight recently after her party allegedly received funding from a donor with strong links to the Gupta family.

However, she denies this saying the opposition party received R400,000 from an executive director of Sahara Computers, a company owned by the Guptas.

She said the donation was made from a personal bank account.

Zille refused to name the donor, saying it was against DA policy.

She said she now wants an investigation into the matter.

"The revelation that the apartheid government was funding a newspaper to paddle propaganda brought down a prime minister and a Cabinet minister. If President Zuma truly wants to restore the integrity of his office, he will subject the New Age to the same levels of scrutiny."

Zille said over the past six months, her party has been collecting information about how the newspaper is actually funded.

The publication is owned by the Gupta family, who are known to be close with Zuma.

OTHER 'COFFERS'

Meanwhile, it emerged that the office of Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane forked out R700,000 for a New Age breakfast briefing in 2012.

This follows previous revelations that Transnet paid about R17.5 million to sponsor 18 breakfast briefings, while Eskom paid R7.2 million to sponsor six sessions between November 2011 and 2012.

ANC SUPPORT CONTINUES

Amid the controversy, the ruling party said it will continue to encourage and support the event.

The ANC's Keith Khoza said the breakfast sessions are an important initiative to strengthening democracy by ensuring an informed citizenry.

"Why is Helen Zille focusing on one newspaper? Is it because they have exposed her lies about denying knowing who sponsored them when she participated? Or is it about her exposed irregular appointment of TBWA/Hunt Lascaris?"

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