Lonrho to work with ANC on new paper: Trelford tipped to manage new daily

TINY ROWLAND, the chief executive of Lonrho publishers of the Observer, says that his company is planning to set up a new South African newspaper in co-operation with the African National Congress and that the outgoing Observer editor, Donald Trelford, would run the paper.

Mr Rowland made the announcement during a news conference on Friday at Mooinooi in the western Transvaal for the naming of a new pounds 30m mine shaft at Western Platinum in his honour. The South African daily Business Day yesterday quoted Mr Rowland as saying that the new newspaper would be similar to the Mail on Sunday.

Since the ANC leadership returned from exile in 1990, its leaders have been looking to set up a paper. The ANC has a monthly magazine called Mayibue. But there is a sharp debate within the organisation about the merits of a newspaper. Many who oppose the idea argue that a newspaper would be expensive, with no promise of success. They say the ANC should be devoting its resources to radio and broadcasting because that is what the majority of people relate to.

An ANC spokesman, Carl Neihaus, yesterday denied that the Congress would have any direct financial or editorial interest in the new paper, which he said would be published daily and would be set up 'as soon as possible, certainly before the election'. The multi-party negotiation forum has said that South Africa's first multi-racial general elections should be held before May 1994. The poll date was expected to be set by early June.

Mr Neihaus said the ANC had contacted Mr Rowland and the millionaire Nigerian presidential candidate, Chief Mashood Abiola, publisher of the Concord group, in an effort to interest them in financing an independent newspaper. 'The ANC would have neither editorial control nor financial interest in the paper,' he said. 'The ANC is not going to put any of our money into the new paper.'

Mr Trelford, who edited the Nyasaland Times in Malawi between 1963 and 1966, said in a telephone interview from London that while he was 'aware of the project' and Mr Rowland had asked him to be involved in Lonrho's overseas media operations, he could not confirm his appointment as the new paper's editor.

'I am up to my ears in handing over the Observer,' he said. 'I have no plans and no clear idea what I'll be doing.'

Mr Trelford, who has edited the Observer since January 1976, will hand over to Jonathan Fenby, deputy editor of the Guardian, in August. The Guardian's parent company, the Guardian and Manchester Evening News Group, bought the Observer from Lonrho last month. The ANC's Director of Information and Publicity, Pallo Jordan, recently visited the Observer in London to get ideas for a newspaper, said Mr Trelford.

Despite strong informal links with the press in Africa, the only newpaper Mr Rowland now owns is The Standard in Kenya. Lonrho's holding in a newspaper in Tanzania was nationalised and the Times of Zambia was sold to the government there.