05/02/2017 09:24 GMT | Updated 05/02/2017 09:52 GMT

Mpumalanga Considers A New Daily Newspaper Funded By Taxpayers But Denies That The Guptas Are First In Line

The plan apparently looks very similar to one that the Guptas' newspaper The New Age proposed. And it could cost taxpayers R20-million.

Gallo Images/Financial Mail/Robert Tshabalala
Billionaire businessman and newspaper publisher Atul Gupta.

The Gupta family is believed to be planning a taxpayer-funded government propaganda daily newspaper in Mpumalanga, reported the Sunday Times.

The newspaper said it had seen tender documents for the project, which bore "striking similarities" to a proposal made by the Guptas' newspaper The New Age in September last year.

The draft terms of reference for the tender state that the proposed daily newspaper would provide prominent coverage of the programmes of the Mpumalanga administration and would be distributed to all municipalities in the province, and all Mpumalanga's provincial government departments and municipalities would be expected to advertise in it, said the Sunday Times.

Sources told the newspaper the contract was expected to be worth more than R20-million over three years.

"The draft document appears to have been tailor-made to suit a proposal made by TNA Media, owners of The New Age, at an Mpumalanga provincial government communicators forum in September last year," said the Sunday Times. The company declined to comment to the Sunday Times: "TNA does not comment on commercial relationships, existing, potential or speculative."

The newspaper reported that Mpumalanga provincial spokesperson Zibonele Mncwango denied that Mpumalanga was looking to establish a new government newspaper with TNA Media. He said the province was willing to partner with any newspaper.

The controversial Gupta family are close friends of President Jacob Zuma and have been strongly criticised in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report "State of Capture" for their inappropriate links with government.