NB Publishers is standing by Jacques Pauw – and Pauw says no journalist would keep sensitive documents lying around the house. But more pressing is the question of what on earth the Hawks are doing. Why this, why now? By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.
This story has been updated to include the Hawks’ response.
The raid on Wednesday afternoon was on Pauw’s premises in Riebeeck-Kasteel, about an hour outside Cape Town, using a search and seizure warrant for any information or document relating to the State Security Agency (SSA). This was after Pauw implicated the complainant, Director-General Arthur Fraser, in the wastage of a billion rand of taxpayers’ money.
Two captains and a colonel from the Hawks conducted the search, Pauw told media. They were from the Crimes Against the State Unit, which would ordinarily investigate cases of terrorism and state security.
Pauw was allowed to send the warrant to his attorney before the search proceeded, he said.
He added that it was, however, unlikely that any journalist would keep sensitive documents lying around their private home and office – though some items were taken in.
The raid follows a period of uncertainty in which Pauw and colleague Pieter-Louis Myburgh initially faced a criminal case and later the news that they would no longer have to report to Durban North police station following the removal of the investigating officer, Colonel Reuben Govender, from that case.
The docket was moved to the provincial head office among reports that Govender had a history of intimidating suspects. Pauw at the time described the decision as a vindication.
Pauw and Myburgh’s legal team had sent Govender multiple letters informing him, among other things, that he had reneged on an agreement to meet with the journalists, only to demand their presence at Durban North Police Station – without having informed them that they were required for a court appearance or communicating details of what was being investigated.
Beyond Pauw’s own fate now, however, the raid raises key questions about the Hawks themselves and their current position. In broader context, the Hawks earlier on Wednesday said the NPA hindered the prosecution of State Capture suspects. Acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata – who was on the panel that appointed her much-maligned predecessor, Lt-Gen Berning Ntlemeza – has admitted to Parliament’s police committee that she has no explanation for why the NPA delayed approval of the arrest of suspects in the controversial Vrede dairy farm case, which made the Gupta family some R220-million richer.
According to her, she raised the delay with then-police minister Fikile Mbalula and met with NPA head Shaun Abrahams after the investigation was completed, but was only allowed to make arrests this month. Abrahams, meanwhile, is facing axing.
Pauw – who reported extensively on alleged State Capture in The President’s Keepers – says he is not sure how serious the current investigation is, only that his attorney was informed two weeks ago that there was still an investigation involving him, and that it was being conducted by a general in the Free State. But Wednesday’s search and seizure related to a docket opened by the SSA in Pretoria.
Pauw was not expecting his premises to be raided now. He said he was surprised that a search on his premises was taking place in February 2018 “after the rise of (President Cyril) Ramaphosa”.
Pauw alluded to structural changes while speaking to media on Wednesday afternoon following the search.
He described the raid as “extremely short-sighted” and said that though there had been changes at a political level, he believed that in crime intelligence, there had not been enough changes made at an operational level.
The “old guard” was still in place, he told the SABC. Prince Mokotedi, for instance, head of the Hawks in Gauteng – where this docket originated – was appointed by Ntlemeza.
He said the officers conducting the raid were professional and “just doing their jobs” but appeared embarrassed.
“I don’t know where the order came from, but I can assure you it was not a good idea [to search a journalist’s home],” he said.
Pauw told ANA in December that SARS’ legal action against him back then was more damning for those laying the charges.
“It is not an attack on the credibility of the book but is confirmation of the credibility of the book,” he said.
Which, if one extrapolates the logic, raises the question of what exactly is going on. Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos has previously argued that an attempt to prosecute Pauw – or a similar case – would essentially be unwinnable – largely because proving that the author had used sensitive information from SARS and the SSA would mean proving that large-scale wrongdoing had taken place, which would cause catastrophic levels of embarrassment, at best.
“It is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be prosecuted in terms of either of these acts, as such a prosecution would require the proof that the book contains genuine information leaked from SARS and the SSA – thus confirming the veracity of the allegations in the book,” De Vos wrote.
“This would be catastrophic for President Jacob Zuma as it would confirm that he is guilty of serious wrongdoing and abuse of power. As they say in the movies: ‘Ain’t gonna happen.’”
So why continue the investigation, then? And why now? Does it lie in the identity of the complainant, who was named in the book? Does it lie in Pauw’s own theory, that a clean sweep must still be made at organisational level? Or is the balance so delicate at political level that there is still too much risk of embarrassment?
NB Publishers have committed to standing by the investigative journalist and author, calling the raid on his restaurant and home a “jackboot move”.
They also said the raid was an attempt to “shoot the messenger” and showed evidence of “perverted priorities”.
But according to Pauw’s attorney, Willem de Klerk, it was unclear on Wednesday what the next steps would be. He had not spoken to his client since the earlier reports had broken, he told Daily Maverick.
“For now, we wait,” he said.
In terms of The President’s Keepers, however, NB Publishers is sticking to its guns.
“We condemn this jackboot move in the strongest of terms and stand by our author and the right of the South African public to know how our law enforcement agencies go about their business,” the publishers said on Wednesday night.
“The President’s Keepers brought to light abuse and corruption at these agencies, and this raid is evidence of how the priorities are perverted. They are choosing to shoot the messenger rather than investigate what Jacques Pauw has revealed in his book.”
NB Publishers previously communicated via its lawyers to the SSA that it stood by the book’s content.
Daily Maverick reached out to the Hawks to ask them directly for answers. Spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said they had not had contact with Pauw’s legal team but that they were “just doing (their) job”.
“What is wrong with investigating a case? We (are) just doing our job. Why worry if you have nothing to hide?” Mulaudzi said. DM
Photo: Jacques Pauw at The Gathering, 23 November 2017, Sandton Convention Centre (Photo: Leila Dee Dougan/Daily Maverick)
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