With the exception of the generous space allocated to the Letters column and the variety of subjects which are aired there, it is regrettable that the political images and contents of the Mercury have become servile and sycophantic.
Almost daily, the opinion pieces published are from ANC spokesmen, particularly ones that are attached to other provinces and various government portfolios. It has long been clear that Independent Newspapers, which owns the Mercury title, is anything but independent. Of course, as any informed reader knows, Independent Newspapers is part of Sekunjalo whose chief executive is an unswerving ANC supporter.
As such, the plot is very obvious: the Mercury and its sister publications have become a very unsubtle part of a propaganda campaign to promote the ANC. Who would have thought,40 years ago when the Mercury was deprecating the Citizen newspaper as being a taxpayer-funded mouthpiece of the Nat government, that the Mercury would one day fulfil the same role. For, as informed readers know, Independent Newspapers was acquired by Sekunjalo with R800 million borrowed, interest free, from the Government Employees Pension Fund.
What needs to be weighed up is to what extent the plot is sustainable. It is common knowledge that subscribership and readership of big establishment papers in the US is declining, particularly since the onset of the Trump era. That same trend is underway in South Africa. Moreover, the internet affords widespread and more immediate access to news and views – for free. So, with the renewal of my annual Mercury subscription due soon, I have to ask myself: what am I investing in?
Sent into The Mercury and published, 13 April 2017.