Haffajee to ‘seek counsel’ over Miyeni column

2011-08-03 08:44

City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee would seek advice on what to do about columnist Eric Miyeni’s description of her as a “black snake” who might have been necklaced during the apartheid era, she told eNews today.

“I am seeking wise counsel this morning,” Haffajee said, after Miyeni made the remarks in a column published by The Sowetan on Monday.

Haffajee said she did not know yet whether she should go to court or to the press ombudsman over the matter, but felt “I must do something about this”. Miyeni was a writer and “thought leader” she had admired, having read all his books, which include The Only Black at the Dinner Party.

But, Monday’s column was hate speech, she said.

Miyeni was fired as a columnist later on Monday.

He wrote it in response to the City Press’ reportage on a trust that ANC Youth League president Julius Malema registered in the name of his son.

The reports included a claim from an unnamed businessman that the trust was used to funnel funds to Malema so that they would be favoured when contracts and tenders were awarded.

The newspaper has previously run articles which raise questions over how Malema affords his lifestyle, which reportedly includes a multimillion-rand home in Sandton, northern Joburg, and loans of luxury vehicles.

In the column, Miyeni also wanted to know why City Press was only investigating blacks and not whites.

Miyeni is considering suing The Sowetan for his sacking.

He has questioned why The Sowetan only responded on Monday, after he submitted it for publication last Thursday.

An extract of a letter in The Sowetan by Lindy Nene of Alberton, southeastern Joburg, today reflected some of the views on the controversy: “I ask myself why the article was published in the first place.

“I think it’s one of two things: the editor thought the article fit for public consumption and published, or the editor simply has no idea what is happening in his own backyard, meaning he is not doing his job.”

At least three other columnists, two for publications in the same stable, Avusa, have either been fired or had their columns canned in recent years as a result of a public outcry over their work.

David Bullard, who wrote for the Sunday Times, Kuli Roberts for the Sunday World and Deon Maas of Rapport.

Bullard wrote a column about an uncolonised Africa, Roberts on stereotypes of coloured women, and Maas on Satanism.

Necklacing involves pushing a rubber tyre doused in petrol over a person’s head and shoulders and setting it alight, leading to a slow death by burning. It was commonly associated with the murder of black people accused of collaborating with apartheid-era security forces, but is still recorded in South Africa in acts of vigilantism.

Malema has said the trust is used to pass donations to charity, and feels his other financial affairs are private and not up for scrutiny, besides by the tax man.

He has also encouraged anyone with information on a bribe paid to him, to approach the police for an investigation.
The police have already been asked to investigate Malema’s lifestyle, by the Freedom Front Plus.

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