Confusion surrounds the appointment of Kanthan Pillay, founder and leader of the Capitalist Party of South Africa (ZACP), as TV channel eNCA's news boss following the death of Ben Said.
While The Citizen first reported on Thursday that his appointment may already have been a done deal following an anonymous tip-off from within the company, eNCA editor-in-chief Jeremy Maggs was subsequently reached, and said Pillay had joined eNCA's senior management, but only on a “short term contract”.
“He has not been appointed head of news,” he said at the time.
Both Maggs and Pillay would not be drawn on questions as to whether he is quitting politics, or whether the appointment of a political leader to an independent media organisation is appropriate.
Like The Citizen, News24 reports that it received information on Pillay's appointment from within the company, with a source saying he had replaced Said as head of news and was already making "important editorial decisions".
The channel reportedly didn't respond to News24 enquiries on Wednesday about whether Pillay was appointed to replace Said – who died in late August, when the appointment happened, and what the official title of the person was who was heading up the news division.
On Thursday, after a second media News24 enquiry, eNCA spokesperson Lerato Maboi said: "When we do have any news to share regarding appointments, we will be certain to communicate. Wishing you a great day ahead."
On Wednesday, an insider alleged: "eNCA has employed Kanthan Pillay to replace the late Ben Said. No formal announcement has been made as far as I am aware, but I'm told he is already making important editorial decisions.
"Pillay is founder and leader of the Capitalist Party of South Africa, also known as the Purple Cow. It goes without saying that he promotes and supports a particular political system and ideology.
"Surely the journalistic and ethical [principles] of an 'independent' news organisation are being compromised? Should it be headed up by a politician pushing a particular party line? Where is the editorial independence and objectivity? Also talk of another line-up change at eNCA."
Later on Wednesday, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi publicly tweeted that he had allegedly been "reliably informed" that Pillay was working as eNCA's news boss.
"This is the founder of the Purple Cow party which contested the 2019 elections on a highly reactionary ticket. If this is true, then eNCA is doomed for good!"
While the channel isn't forthcoming on the appointment, Pillay's recent tweets may raise questions of a link.
(Additional reporting added by Daniel Friedman.)
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