A SHAREHOLDER in a top media services company has alleged in a taped conversation with former Western Cape premier Lynne Brown that Cape Town journalists are being paid cash “in brown envelopes” to write and influence stories for political ends, write Glynnis Underhill and Mandy Rossouw in the Mail & Guardian.

Former accounts director at Hip-Hop Media, Vukile ­Pokwana, claimed in the marathon two-hour tape that an executive editor at the Cape Argus newspaper, Joe Aranes, is among those being paid through provincial government contracts to manipulate the news.

“I am saying, Premier, Joe Aranes does that, but I was saying to Thabo [Mabaso, a former Cape Argus journalist] now, he is so weak. This thing of handling brown envelopes, he still does it until today. … Brown envelopes, Premier, they are nice … you can blow it, you can drink every day, feed off other ­habits,” Pokwana told Brown.

In 2006 the Cape Argus suspended Aranes and another senior Cape Argus journalist, Ashley Smith. They were subjected to an internal disciplinary hearing to investigate their links with a media company that has a contract with the provincial government. Smith resigned and Aranes returned to work.

A copy of the bombshell tape was recently leaked to the Mail & Guardian. It was made eight days before the general election on April 22 this year, when Brown was still premier.

Current PetroSA spokesperson Thabo Mabaso, a former senior journalist at the Cape Argus and provincial government spokesperson, was also present at the meeting.

Pokwana was traced to the Eastern Cape, where he now lives. He said he had been unaware he was being taped while meeting Brown. “I’m shocked,” he said. “This is the first time I have heard I was taped.”

Pokwana told the Mail & Guardian he had not “seen money change hands”. He declined to answer questions about the allegations he made on the tape, but confirmed he still has shares in Hip-Hop.

“Your line of questioning is a yawning chasm to what transpired during my meeting with the former premier, Lynne Brown,” Pokwana responded in an email. “I met Brown in her official capacity as the then-premier of the Western Cape and if I was recorded without my knowledge, as you imply, during our meeting, then she is more qualified to answer your questions.”

Click here to read the full report, posted on M&G Online.