It is actually not uncommon for these types of transactions to happen and the article states that fact right at the top:
“The Department of Social Development (DSD) through GCIS buys space [in] the media for the sole purpose of marketing and advertising of the Minister of Social Development, the Department and its agencies. To date, through GCIS the Department has transferred more than R5 million to the SABC for this purpose.”
GCIS stands for Government Communication Information System and refers to the arm of government which provides professional services aimed at “setting and influencing adherence to standards for an effective government communication system; driving coherent government messaging; and proactively communicating with the public about government policies, plans, programmes and achievements.”
In fact, Minister Dlamini’s spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant contacted The Daily Maverick after the story broke and insisted that the DSD, and other government departments, are entitled to pay for interviews to be conducted by the press.
Journalistic ethics dictate that journalists, publications and broadcasters are not supposed to accept money or gifts in exchange for interviews, profiles or any kinds of coverage. Once that occurs, it blurs the lines between news/content and advertising. As such, media practitioners are then required to disclose that the content has been paid for by labelling it (usually as an advertorial/sponsored content)