Africa

Eric Miyeni column: South Africa's Sowetan editor quits

Sowetan masthead Image copyright Other
Image caption The Sowetan was originally distributed for free in black townships

The editor of a leading South Africa newspaper has resigned over an article which seemed to condone violence.

Columnist Eric Miyeni wrote a scathing article about a rival editor who had questioned the lavish lifestyle of ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema.

Sowetan editor Len Maseko's resignation follows that of Mr Miyeni who accused the paper of not backing him.

The row comes as the government considers tighter media regulations.

Those arguing for this could see this latest controversy as justification to tighten the laws on the media, says the BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg.

Earlier this year, powerful minister Trevor Manuel got involved in a row over a column in another South African newspaper, which was offended coloured (mixed-race) people.

Mr Miyeni's Monday article read: "Julius Malema must never answer a Ferial Haffajee. Who the devil is she anyway if not a black snake in the grass, deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks? In the 80s she'd probably have had a burning tyre around her neck."

This was a reference to the practice of necklacing - a form of punishment used during the struggle against white minority rule in which burning tyres were placed around people's necks.

The article has received widespread criticism, with complaints that it crossed the line between freedom of expression and racial-tinged abuse and incitement to violence.

'Ashamed'

The Sowetan also criticised Mr Miyeni's strong-worded article in a published apology.

"If there is something to be ashamed of in the history of our country and the struggle against apartheid, it is the senseless, abhorrent act of necklacing," said the paper's manager Justice Malala.

"In his column Miyeni condoned this act," wrote Mr Malala.

The Sowetan said that although its editor was not on duty when the article was published, he had decided to take responsibility for the controversy.

The article has since been removed from its website.

The paper's publishing house Avusa said disciplinary action would be taken against the people who published the article in its offensive form.

Ms Haffajee, editor of the City Press, is said to be considering a defamation law suit against Mr Miyeni.

The Sowetan has a daily readership of over one million people - it started out during the fight against apartheid as a newspaper distributed for free in black townships including Soweto.

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