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Messenger in line of fire

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Since Pauw’s book was published late last year, he has been investigated by the police and had court applications against him

File image: President Jacob Zuma and Journalist, Jacques Pauw. (Graphic: Rowan Abrahams).

WEDNESDAY’S swoop by the Hawks on investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s guest house looking for “confidential information and secret documentation” used in his book, The President’s Keepers, is a matter for serious concern.

Two captains and a colonel from the Crimes Against the State Unit – which would ordinarily investigate cases of terrorism and state security – were acting on complaints by the State Security Agency (SSA). The raid was launched specifically at the behest of SSA director-general Arthur Fraser, who Pauw implicated in corruption in his bestselling book and had been authorised by a magistrate.

The President’s Keepers is a petrifying journey into the darkest recesses of former president Jacob Zuma’s compromised government, a cabal that eliminates enemies and purges the upstanding from the law-enforcement agencies. Pauw makes a number of startling revelations, including: Zuma failed to pay any tax at all in his first five years in office; that he was illegally paid a monthly R1 million salary by a private company, and that he has poor financial acumen.

This week comes against the backdrop of fears that although we have seen changes recently at a political level, that there had not been enough transformation made at an operational level in crime intelligence.

Since Pauw’s book was published late last year, he has been investigated by the police and had court applications against him.

Constitutional law experts are at pains to point out that attempts to prosecute Pauw for his exposés in The President’s Keepers are foolhardy. His detractors will inadvertently prove that the author had used sensitive information from the SA Revenue Service and the SSA, thereby confirming large-scale wrongdoing had taken place. This would lead to a few red faces in high places.

For us in the media, we accept that no journalist, or any other citizen, is above the law. Yet the unremitting focus on the messenger is the expedient weapon of authoritarian governments who have something to hide. They punish those exposing alleged wrongdoing rather than tackling those guilty of the abuse of power.

The action against Pauw, under an apartheid legislation, bodes ill, particularly at this time when we step into a new era – an era of open, accountable government. Pauw and many in his profession have played an important and courageous part in creating awareness of what had been happening under our noses.