Namibia: The Southern Times Closes Down

THE Southern Times, a partnership between the Zimbabwean and Namibian governments, will be closing down next week after 15 years of dwindling financial resources.

Moses Magadza, who is the paper's founding editor, also confirmed yesterday that he had been asked to write a valedictory message (see page 6). Former editors had been asked to write valedictory messages for the last edition to be published tomorrow.

The Southern Times' general manager, Gwen Snyders, did not respond to questions sent to her by deadline yesterday.

The information ministry's executive director, Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, yesterday, however, said the newspaper was not shutting down, but merely being turned into a SADC news bureau funded by the Namibian government.

Magadza describes The Southern Times as a candle flickering in the wind, and reflects on how they came to name the publication The Southern Times.

He said he has observed that there has been a high turnover of editors at the paper, and that maybe its proprietors were fed up, hence it isnow closing its doors.

"What I know for certain, however, is that there is still space for a regional newspaper with teeth. One that does not shy away from speaking truth to power, offer constructive criticism, and hold regional and continental bodies to account to make them work better for the citizens of SADC," said Magadza.

Some workers told The Namibian yesterday that they only got to know about the shutting down on Tuesday.

They also said they would stop reporting for duty next week Tuesday.

The closure comes after a meeting held in Sandton in South Africa about two weeks ago, where the two governments agreed to wind up operations.According to the memorandum of agreement signed by Zimpapers and New Era Publications Corporation on behalf of their respective governments in 2004, Zimbabwe would provide editors and offer other technical support such as printing.

When the Zimbabwean government was placed under sanctions, Namibia bankrolled the publication for more than 10 years.

In the past four years alone, Namibia spent more than N$60 million on printing costs, salaries and other expenses.

The only monetary contribution Zimbabwe made was N$1,4 million in 2004 when the paper started operating.

The deal, according to information gathered by The Namibian, was skewed in favour of Zimpapers, as despite the limited financial resources put into the project by Zimbabwe, it enjoyed the privilege of taking prominent roles at the newspaper.

*This story has been modified.

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