Protector ‘must probe New Age breakfasts’

2013-01-24 16:51

The Freedom Front Plus intends asking Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to probe the financing of a series of business breakfasts hosted by The New Age using public funds.

In particular, it wanted her to look at the use of public funds by public entities, Freedom Front Plus parliamentary spokesperson Anton Alberts said today.

“The close and improper relationship between newspaper owners and the ANC... and the use of a private platform for image building... is an indication of possible corruption and fruitless expenditure,” he said in a statement.

The Freedom Front Plus would also ask Madonsela to probe politicians who participated in The New Age business breakfasts for improper ties and conflicts of interests with public enterprises and the newspaper.

City Press reported on Sunday that some of the biggest state-owned companies were paying millions to bankroll the breakfasts.

According to the report, Transnet paid R17.5 million for 18 breakfast sessions and Eskom R7.2 million for six sessions between November 2011 and last year. It was previously reported that Telkom paid R12 million to sponsor 12 breakfasts in the 2012/13 financial year.

The SABC reportedly did not charge The New Age to broadcast the events live on SABC2.

The New Age is owned by the Gupta family, a vocal supporter and funder of the ANC and of President Jacob Zuma.

Alberts said he wanted Madonsela to look at the regularity of Transnet and Eskom’s sponsorships.

“Why would Transnet want to polish its image through such sponsorships, given the fact that Transnet’s image has already been damaged by its own doing and obstinate actions against its pensioners?” he asked.

Alberts added that Eskom needed to be investigated for wasting funds while applying to the National Energy Regulator of SA for an increase in electricity tariffs.

Eskom has applied to raise electricity prices by 16% a year over the next five years.

It claimed the increase was necessary to ensure it could provide the electricity needs of all South Africans.

Alberts said it was absurd that both Transnet and Eskom were trying to polish their image through sponsorships because both were monopolies and public utility companies that were not supposed to make a profit.

“Polishing a company’s image is only needed by companies in the private sector,” he said.

“Transnet and Eskom should rather concentrate on public service delivery, and the welfare of their employees and former employees.”

The party was also considering laying charges against the SABC with the Independent Communications Authority of SA for breaking its licensing conditions to provide publicity in a balanced manner to all political parties.

“The majority of opposition parties were never given the same opportunity for publicity as those who had participated in The New Age business breakfasts,” said Alberts.

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