Durban – There is a groundswell of public support to financially assist author of The President’s Keepers, Jacques Pauw, should he be arrested by the State Security Agency.
On Friday night the publishers of the book, NB Publishers, issued a statement thanking the public for “their intense concern”.
The controversial book, with revelations that include shocking allegations of irregularities and corruption against President Jacob Zuma, particularly with regard to his tax affairs, has rocketed to an all-time best-seller as South Africans rush to buy copies.
On Thursday, the SSA confirmed that an investigation was under way into the leaking of classified information, with it emerging that the agency had laid complaints against the author and a former employee of the SSA at the Lyttelton police station in Pretoria. Rumours swirled that Pauw’s arrest was imminent.
Late on Friday, lawyer Willem de Klerk, who is representing Pauw and NB Publishers, confirmed there was still no clarity on the complaints, saying his clients were “very grateful” for the public’s support.
“We have made contact with the Hawks and we have sent correspondence to the head of the Hawks and are waiting for a response as to the nature of the charges, and on Mr Pauw’s position, as to whether he is a suspect or not. We are aware that people are offering their support and our clients are very grateful for the support, and the publishers will be making decisions in that regard,” said De Klerk.
The statement issued by NB Publishers on Friday also said the nature of the complaints against Pauw had yet to be established.
“We can assure the public that we stand by our book and our courageous author who exposed the apartheid-era Vlakplaas death squads and is one of South Africa’s most respected investigative journalists. We have given firm instructions to our attorney in this regard,” read the statement, adding that they had refused to retract certain parts of the book.
Instead of investigating what Pauw’s explosive new book reveals about the agency – including that millions of rand of taxpayers’ money that was blown on a parallel intelligence network – the SSA has chosen to ‘shoot the messenger’. We are grateful and heartened for the many offers from civil society groups for help in this regard and the upswelling of support from the South African public,” said the statement.
And on Friday, former KZN Hawks boss, Major-General Johan Booysen, said the publishing of the book had shown that “the public will be the judge at the end”.
This was ahead of Booysen and the former Cato Manor police unit appearing in the Durban High Court on 116 counts, including racketeering, murder and attempted murder. The men dubbed the “Cato Manor Death Squad” were arrested in 2012 and have appeared 18 times, with their trial yet to begin.
Since the start of the case, Booysen has claimed his unit’s investigations into high-level politically connected individuals had led to his officers’ arrests. The political manoeuvring around the case is unwrapped in Pauw’s book. The case has been postponed to October 8 next year.
Outside the court, Booysen said he agreed with the statement that “the truth will prevail” made by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan at the book’s launch in Pretoria on Thursday night.
“History will judge the current National Prosecuting Authority leadership for what they are and the public will be the judge in the end,” said Booysen.
At the Pretoria launch of the book, Gordhan said: “It’s not my job to say whether the facts are verifiable or not. Read the book for what it is, read many more books, read contrary views if you want to. At the end of the day, all of us know truth will prevail.”
Gordhan described Pauw’s book as a “brilliant and courageous effort to connect a million dots to see who played what role”.
At the launch, Pauw said if the SSA charged him, that would mean they were confirming the contents of the book were true, while “I can’t see how they can charge me for false information because I haven’t broken the law”.
Also on Thursday night, speaking at the Eric Molobi Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg, another former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, warned that next month’s ANC elective conference could collapse, saying “my hunch is that there are prospects of fresh manipulation of numbers and, if this is so, (prospects of) the conference collapsing into a heap at the point of the credential stage on days one and two are incredibly high”.
This would put those holding top positions in government and state institutions into a powerful position. He called for an “ANC leadership change for the better”.
President Jacob Zuma took a swipe at Pauw’s book on Thursday, accusing opposition parties of relying on “fictitious books” while replying to the debate on his annual address in the National Council of Provinces.
After opposition MPs, waving copies of Pauw’s book in the chamber, had accused him of destroying the country, Zuma said the opposition was obsessed with books which would not take the country forward.
“They now have a new tendency of carrying books written by people who are speculating and rumours and they are not tested facts.”
Since its release on October 29, more than 25 000 copies of the book have been sold in South Africa and more than 50 000 are on order.
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