R1m Gupta breakfast bill for communications dept

Cape Town - The communications department spent nearly R1m on one of the Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper's breakfast briefings.

The briefing, held on May 26, 2016, cost R958 689, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said in a reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance.

The party wanted to know how much her department spent on "promotional events organised by a certain newspaper," referring to The New Age (TNA).

"It is not a secret the Gupta-owned TNA is propped up by the millions it receives from government departments and state-owned companies that sponsor its breakfast briefings, buy in bulk copies of its newspaper, and spend disproportionally on adverts in the newspaper," DA MP and communications spokesperson Phumzile van Damme said on Tuesday.

She cited further examples: The R733m the SABC spent on TNA subscriptions between May 1, 2014 and March 2016; the R4m the Free State government spent on advertising in the TNA 2016; and the almost R10m government spent on TNA advertising in 2015.

"Over the last few months, it has become patently clear that not only TNA, but also ANN7, are nothing more than Gupta and pro-Zuma propaganda mouthpieces, surviving on the hard-earned rand of South Africa's taxpayers. It is no longer conscionable to fund this propaganda," she said.

SPECIAL REPORT: Gupta leaks

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She warned South Africans not to fall prey to "fake Gupta news" and propaganda.

"Since the leak of thousands of emails between the Guptas and their associates, which have implicated them in state capture, the family's TNA and ANN7 broadcaster had done everything to distract the public from the truth.

"They have attacked everyone who has spoken out against the Gupta capture of the ANC," Van Damme said.

She called for an end to government funding of ANN7 and TNA, to end their "propaganda campaign".

The ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board heard testimony that the SABC paid up to R1m for TNA breakfasts, thereby bankrolling their competitors, ANN7.

Business Day reported last week that the cash-strapped public broadcaster's interim board wanted to cancel the TNA-deal.

The department's expenditure took place when Faith Muthambi was still minister. The ad hoc committee found her incompetent. She intended asking a court to review its report, which the National Assembly adopted.

The leaked Gupta emails show that Muthambi provided confidential information from Cabinet meetings to the Guptas. She was moved to the public service and administration portfolio in March.

According to the emails, Gupta-owned Sahara Computers paid for a trip to Dubai for Dlodlo.

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