SOUTH African newspapers in the Independent News & Media stable should be broken up and not sold to a single owner in order to improve media diversity, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande said at the party's conference yesterday.

It has emerged that the group's subsidiary in SA could be sold to politically connected companies.

Cyril Ramaphosa's Shanduka Group and Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo Investments were named by the Financial Times this week as likely buyers of the titles, although there had been several expressions of interest from other investors.

Mr Nzimande said there should be a campaign to break up the South African chapter of the group, as its Irish owners prepared to sell the newspapers, and they "must not be sold as a monopoly" so that independent players got a chance to own some of the titles.

The newspapers in the stable include The Star, the Cape Times and the Cape Argus.

"We see this (the group) as too big," said Mr Nzimande.

If the papers were sold together, an entrepreneur would "come and buy them to buy political influence and carry on as they have been doing", he said. "Largely, the Independent is acting as an opposition."

His deputy, Jeremy Cronin, said the Irish parent company had been stripping the assets of the operation in SA and shipping money, at least R500m, out of the country.

Delivering his political report to 2000 delegates at the congress, Mr Nzimande called the SABC a "shame" for continuing to broadcast reports about expelled African National Congress (ANC) Youth League leader Julius Malema. The SABC has often been caught up in the ANC's politics, especially ahead of leadership elections. Mr Nzimande later told journalists that the SABC, like most newspapers, had clearly taken a side in the ANC's succession race.

During his speech, Mr Nzimande said he was "ashamed of the public broadcaster" for feeding the public a "breakfast, lunch and dinner" of news about "people who have been expelled" from the ANC.

Some leaders of the ruling alliance are unhappy with the media coverage Mr Malema received after his expulsion. He was expelled for, among other reasons, calling President Jacob Zuma a dictator and disrespecting other senior leaders.

Since then, Mr Malema has been speaking at events and lectures not associated with the ANC. He was in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, where he criticised Mr Zuma's leadership.

Mr Nzimande said Mr Malema was fuelling tribalism.

mkokelis@bdfm.co.za