Howick’s newspaper war

2012-12-29 00:00

A NEWSPAPER battle is brewing in Howick following a decision by the uMngeni Municipality to start its own publication.

The municipality’s launch of uMngeni Times follows the launch of uMngeni News, the brainchild of the local ratepayers’ association.

Mudslinging began this week with the uMngeni Ratepayers/Residents Association criticising uMngeni Times as a waste of taxpayers’ money and shameless self-promotion by Mayor Mbali Myeni. The 12-page newsletter has more than 10 pictures of her.

uMngeni municipal manager Mpilo Ngubane disagreed the publication was wasteful.

“By law, the municipality has to communicate with its residents and the newsletter is one of those ways to communicate what the municipality is doing or what it has done.”

The maiden November-December edition of uMngeni Times runs to about 10000 copies — 7 000 in Zulu and 3 000 in English. uMngeni News claims to distribute 11 000 copies. Both are free tabloids.

Ngubane said the municipality’s newsletter will be published quarterly and financed with a communications grant from the national government.

Each publication costs R30 000 to produce and when the grant runs out, the municipality will hunt for advertisers.

Ngubane said there was nothing wrong with publishing several photographs of the mayor.

His views were echoed by Democratic Alliance caucus leader Pam Passmoor, who said the municipality needed to communicate with residents. “The publication will help to encourage the residents to pay for their services. We have a challenge in areas like Mpophomeni, where the municipality is losing R20 million a year due to theft and nonpayment of electricity bills.”

Passmoor’s former colleague and former DA councillor Tim Lindsay-White is the editor of uMngeni News.

“We launched the paper first … this was the voice of the ratepayers,” said Lindsay-White.

He criticised the municipality’s decision to launch a publication when it is allegedly in financial difficulty.

Ratepayers’ group chairperson Rorie Anderson said their complaints were not motivated by jealousy. “We are ratepayers and we monitor everything about the municipality. We are concerned it is spending money on this while it is in dire financial straits.

“There is no comparison between the two papers. Ours is a critical voice of the ratepayers funded through adverts, while the other is advertising for the mayor.”

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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