Finance Minister Trevor Manuel lambasted the media's coverage of the nationwide public sector strike, comparing journalists to cheerleaders who waved "pom-poms" instead of asking hard questions about striking workers.
Manuel said he was concerned about the stayaway of health workers, but that journalists were not asking why these workers, who form part of an essential service, were on strike.
Manuel was also critical of the way journalists were covering the G8 Summit taking place in Germany, which seemed to be all about the protests and not posing hard questions about the US's control of the leadership of the World Bank.
"I don't know if the denial of health services is not a hard question that must be asked," said Manuel, responding to questions about the strike.
Manuel said there were a number of questions and comparisons that journalists had to make when writing their stories.
"You can look at this thing differently, you can look at per capita earnings, you can look at a share of the gross domestic product, you can look at the relationship between an auto worker and a policeman. You can look at the relationship between a factory worker and a teacher. You can look at this by country and then you have to ask a series of questions," said Manuel.
Manuel was speaking yesterday at a lunch organised by the World Editors Forum, which is meeting alongside journalists at the World Association of Newspapers in Cape Town.
"Those are the hard questions that are different from pom-pom waving. I'm not seeing that stuff. I read newspapers, I don't know why but I do. But I don't see those kinds of issues. And this is the discussion we need to have."
He said he was only quoting the analogy of journalists being like cheerleaders after hearing a comment made by former Chrysler boss Lee Iaccoca. Manuel said Iaccoca had compared journalists to pom-pom waving cheerleaders who did not ask the hard questions.
Manuel's comments come as the strike continues, with government's 6,5percent wage offer rejected by the unions, which are demanding 12percent.
Yesterday Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said in a debate on SABC that government had responded to workers' demands by adding more than R4billion to its wage offer. However, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi responded by saying it was not good enough, and indicated that his federation would consider 9percent.