Former Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) director-general Mzwanele Manyi has defended the agency’s decision to spend R6.3m in advertising on the now-defunct The New Age (TNA) newspaper, saying it had the “beauty of disseminating government information”.
Testifying before the state capture inquiry on Thursday, Manyi said: “When you do advertising with a particular newspaper you must know who are the type of people that read that particular newspaper.
“That is your target market. With The New Age, when I was there. I had a particular interest … my interest was to disseminate government information.”
The newspaper, which was owned by the Gupta family, hit the streets for the first time in December 2010.
The first payment, paid from the GCIS to Gupta-linked entities, was made in February when Themba Maseko was fired in February 2011, News24 previously reported.
“The beauty of The New Age was that they understood that they needed to disseminate information. Therefore, it is something that you would embrace that here is a newspaper that was willing to fulfill the service delivery of the GCIS, which is dissemination of information.”
Manyi claimed the editorial approach of TNA was in line with what the government was “yearning” for.
“I think government misses TNA even today.”
During Manyi’s tenure at the GCIS, the agency spent R6.3m on the newspaper in 2011 and 2012.
It spent R2.6m on the Daily Sun and R4.1m on the Sowetan.
“Do you then accept that your decision to place advertising … on that newspaper is to support a new entrant and isn’t linked to get your message to a desired target market?” Hofmeyr asked him.
In response, Manyi said the GCIS supported the newspaper because it was a new entrant and it knew the importance of disseminating information.
Hofmeyr said it was “irrational” for the government, in the form of the GCIS, to spend money on TNA, which was not even in the top 10 in 2011.
“I disagree with you. I think your summary is devoid of the developmental agenda of the government. Your summary is devoid of the experience of the new entrant in terms of barriers into the industry,” Manyi responded.