Sowetan editor takes fall for Miyeni column

2011-08-04 07:10

The Sowetan’s acting editor, Len Maseko, has taken full responsibility for Eric Miyeni’s column and has resigned, its publisher Avusa said.

“Although Maseko was on leave at the time, he accepts the consequences of this lapse in the paper’s judgment, which allowed the column to appear in one of the country’s finest publications,” the company’s editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya said in a statement.

Maseko took on the job of acting editor at the paper earlier this year.

Mpumelelo Mkhabela, previously the editor of Daily Dispatch, would now take on the role of editor. The changes were a bid to bolster the existing team and continue to deliver “quality content”, Makhanya said.

Avusa’s parliamentary bureau chief Brendan Boyle would take on the role of Daily Dispatch editor.

Miyeni, who was fired this week over a column he wrote about City Press editor Ferial Haffajee, published on Monday, called on Avusa Limited to sack Makhanya.

“Mondli Makhanya should have been fired for publishing the controversial column that got David Bullard fired from the Sunday Times.”

Bullard was sacked after an outcry over a column in April 2008 about an uncolonised Africa, which was perceived as racist.

“There is no legal proof of any wrongdoing with regards to my Sowetan column entitled ‘Haffajee does it for white masters’. For that reason, nobody, including me, should have been fired by Avusa for it,” he said.

Instead of being fired after the Bullard matter, Makhanya was promoted to editor-in-chief, Miyeni said.

“He is the one who taught Avusa editors by example that you do not have to do your editorial duties to get ahead at Avusa. You must simply apologise when things go wrong after the fact and fire an underling. Mondli should be fired too,” he said.

Makhanya could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yesterday, Haffajee was seeking advice on what to do about Miyeni’s description of her as a “black snake” who might have been necklaced during the apartheid era.

Necklacing involves pushing a car tyre soaked in petrol over a person’s head and shoulders and setting it alight. 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.

Haffajee did not know yet whether she should go to court over the matter, or to the Press Ombudsman, but said she felt she “must do something about this”.

She said Miyeni was a writer and “thought leader” she had admired, having read all his books, which include The Only Black at the Dinner Party. However, Monday’s column was hate speech, she said.

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

It was reported that an unnamed businessman had claimed the trust was used to funnel funds to Malema in exchange for being given preference when contracts and tenders were awarded.

The newspaper has previously run articles which have raised questions about how Malema afforded his lifestyle, which reportedly includes a multimillion-rand home in Sandton and loans of luxury vehicles.

Malema said the trust was used to pass donations to charity, and felt his other financial affairs were private and not up for scrutiny by anyone other than the tax man.

He 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 Freedom Front Plus.

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

Miyeni is considering suing the Sowetan for his sacking.

He asked why the Sowetan reacted only on Monday when he submitted the column for publication on Thursday.

“I ask myself why the article was published in the first place,” reader Lindy Nene, of Alberton, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Sowetan yesterday.

“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.”

Apart from Bullard, Kuli Roberts of the Sunday World and Deon Maas of Rapport have had their columns canned in recent years as a result of a public outcry over their work.

Roberts wrote on stereotypes of coloured women and Maas on Satanism.

Listen – What Miyeni, Haffajee and Juju said

After axed columnist Eric Miyeni took on City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee, the debate took to the airwaves where ANCYL’s Julius Malema joined in.

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