Avusa has moved swiftly to control the fallout after the Sowetan published a controversial column that slated City Press editor Ferial Haffajee for the newspaper’s series that exposes the financial machinations of ANCYL leader, Julius Malema.
Avusa’s editorial processes have been questioned following the publication of Eric Miyeni’s column. This is the third time one of the company’s newspapers has been found wanting after publishing columns deemed to be racist or promoting hate speech.
The first was David Bullard at the Sunday Times, followed by the Kuli Roberts column in Sunday World that denigrated coloured women and now, Miyeni, who said that Haffajee was a ‘black snake in the grass’ and that in the 80s, she might have been necklaced.
While all the offending columnists were fired, or their columns ‘discontinued’, questions have been raised on how the columns were published in the first place and why the editors have not been held to account.
In a statement issued late yesterday, Avusa said that “following the controversial column by a freelance writer published in the Sowetan newspaper, Avusa Media has announced a number of key editorial changes, in a bid to bolster the existing team and continue to deliver the quality content for which the paper has been known for the past 60 years”.
Avusa said that acting editor of the Sowetan, Len Maseko, has stepped down and taken full responsibility for the offending column, authored by Eric Miyeni.
“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 statement read.
Now Mpumelelo Mkhabela, previously the editor of Daily Dispatch, will now take on the role of editor at Sowetan. “Mkhabela is highly regarded within media and political circles and, under his leadership, he will continue the journalistic excellence of the Sowetan,” Avusa said.
Mkhabela started his career at City Press. He holds a journalism Honours degree from Stellenbosch University and also holds honours degrees in Political Science and International Politics from the University of Limpopo and UNISA respectively.
“Mpumelelo Mkhabela is one of the country’s most respected journalists and political commentators and we are incredibly pleased that he will be at the helm of Sowetan,” said Mondli Makhanya, Avusa Media editor in chief. “Mkhabela believes in strong debate and editorial integrity, while also embracing the synergy between print and digital media.”
Respected veteran journalist Brendan Boyle will take over the editorship of the Daily Dispatch, since Mkhabela leaves for the Sowetan. Boyle is currently the Parliamentary Bureau Chief of Avusa Media, runs the politics section of Times LIVE and has a weekly column in the Avusa daily, The Times.
“Brendan has seen it all,” comments Makhanya. “He knows nearly everything there is to know about the functioning of South African society and is undoubtedly an authority on political and economic issues.”
The above changes are all effective immediately.