South Africa


Jacques Pauw Affair: The Story, The Facts, The Fallout and The Future

When a journalistic lodestar implodes, journalists and publications have to do a few things and do them very quickly. First, correct. Then, if necessary, retract. Then, apologise. Then, analyse. And tell the truth.

The story 

On Friday, 12 February, Daily Maverick published a gonzo column written by one of South Africa’s most celebrated journalists. We’re speaking here about Jacques Pauw, co-founder of the anti-apartheid crusading Vrye Weekblad; exposer of atrocities in Rwanda and Darfur; author of the mega-selling Zuma takedown The President’s Keepers. Pauw is one of the last remnants of the “new journalism” fraternity, an almost entirely male group of voicey, ballsy writers that came up in the 1980s, battling forces of authoritarianism that are now, thankfully, rotting in history’s landfill.

On Monday, 8 February, Pauw called Daily Maverick’s editor Branko Brkic with a story. He claimed to have endured a nightmarish experience that was of clear public interest: following a meal at a restaurant at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront on Saturday, 6 February, he was wrongfully and violently arrested based on a simple misunderstanding – a waiter assumed that he was unwilling to pay his bill, the cops overreacted and turfed him in jail. 

“Three policemen pounced on me, cuffed me, and dragged me to a backlit office somewhere in the innards of the Waterfront,” he would later write. “They accused me of having stolen R1,600 from the waiter.” 

“Pounce”, “drag”, “innards” – Pauw’s memory of the event seemed lucid, specific, and visceral, exactly what you’d expect from a hack who’d been doing this job since Verwoerd was in short pants. He took us inside “a mosquito-infested holding cell with three cement bunk beds, a broken shower, a dirty and stinking toilet and a wash basin”, which was “to become my home for the next two days”. On Sunday at noon, after someone within the system realised that Jacques Pauw was indeed Jacques Pauw, he was released. A case was opened against him and a court date set for the following day. But he was missing R1,000 in cash, which he said must have been stolen by the arresting officers.

Despite the early release that his celebrity status afforded him, the treatment Pauw claimed to have faced at the hands of the cops flouted the constitutional arrangement managing the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. As Pauw’s piece pointed out, “The SAPS has, over the past five years, paid an estimated R1.5-billion in civil claims for wrongful arrest. In 2019 alone, the cops coughed up R535-million.” 

Those statistics are horrific, but the truth is that white men in their later years make up a fraction of a fraction of that number. Somehow, one of South Africa’s most famous journalists had been caught in the cogs of this cruel and unusual carceral calculus, and wanted to write about it. 

Public interest? Most certainly. Big-name writer? You betcha. Solid story? Hmm.

On Tuesday, February 9, Pauw submitted his first draft. Due to the nature of the allegations, some further legwork was requested by Brkic. Daily Maverick made contact with the restaurant’s management on two occasions. They forcefully disagreed with Pauw’s version of events, but did not want to go on record. (The restaurant was not named in the original piece, but can now be identified as Den Anker.) Nor would the restaurant release the CCTV footage that would confirm or deny Pauw’s version of events. Instead, management requested to speak to Pauw, so that they could help massage his recollection. Pauw was sticking by his story. At the time, spokespeople for the V&A Waterfront were unwilling to discuss the incident, stating, “The matter is being dealt with by SAPS at Table Bay Police Station [copied in on email] as it’s sub judice and we would request all further requests to be directed to them [sic].” The police gave a perfunctory statement confirming Pauw’s arrest, and the fact that a charge of theft had been laid against him. 

When all was said and done, this was Jacques Pauw – a media star who had more than earned his place in the South African journalistic firmament. It was his word against the word of the restaurant, the V&A and the SAPS, which is hardly an institution renowned for its transparency. In short, his reputation and decades of experience gave him the privilege of believability. 

Pauw’s piece ran on the afternoon of Friday, February 12, and was titled “I was stunned and dazed when pounced on by police, arrested, jailed overnight and charged with theft”. It fell into a potentially dangerous grey area between personal reflection, journalism and opinion, and was published under the latter category. Studies have shown that even sophisticated news consumers, especially when reading online, have difficulty discerning taxonomic distinctions between “report”, “investigation”, “op-ed” and “opinion”, which has major implications for how information in the public interest is digested. In order to further orient Pauw’s piece as an “opinion” in the loose sense of the term, it ran under the Opinionista banner, with a long caveat, ending in: 

Editor’s note: Daily Maverick made additional independent enquiries to add other voices to Pauw’s story. Nobody was willing to go on record at the time of publication. 

In the wake of a busy news week, the piece gained a decent but hardly stellar readership. It did, however, earn the interest of a number of high-profile personalities on social media. There were outraged calls for a “ban” of the V&A by right-wing trolls who are, in the normal course of affairs, robust critics of Cancel Culture. Suddenly, a venue which houses over 80 restaurants and maintains thousands of livelihoods, and which had already been devastated by successive Covid-19 lockdowns, had become the focus of an ad hoc consumer rights campaign, fuelled by Pauw’s vivid description of mistreatment. 

Then, on Tuesday, February 16, a bombshell.

Almost 76 hours after the piece was published, at 12.31pm, Pauw uploaded to his Twitter account what appeared to be a retraction. Written in archaic if ominous typewriter font, the missive offered apologies to the unnamed restaurant, the V&A Waterfront, the police, along with Daily Maverick’s editor and readers. Jacques, said Jacques, had drank too much alcohol and his memory was impaired. “The ordeal of the experience of the arrest and having to spend the night in jail [further] compounded my emotional state.”

“I feel embarrassed about my conduct,” continued Pauw. “In this era of fake news, propaganda and lack of accountability, I must publicly accept responsibility for my own actions and apologise for them. It is the right thing to do.”

The facts

The apology may indeed have been the right thing to do, but it soon became clear that the retraction’s contents included further elisions and evasions. For one thing, the text was written in consultation with the management of the V&A, and without the input of Daily Maverick’s editorial staff – an ethical breach that only added to the messy fallout. Pauw then uploaded the missive on to Twitter as a standalone statement, failing to include the important qualifications made by Daily Maverick in its formal apology and retraction. Worse, as Daily Maverick continued to investigate, it appeared that Pauw had lied about almost the entire lead-up to the arrest — a fact he did not appropriately address in his retraction, but one that would result in the piece being unpublished the following day.

It seems obscene to report the following events in light of the very real problems currently unfolding in South Africa, but this is where we find ourselves. After reviewing the CCTV footage from the restaurant, and after consulting with sources at the Waterfront (who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals), we can now reveal how the afternoon played out.

After midday on Saturday, Pauw arrived at the restaurant with a young female companion. Pauw described her to one source as a journalism student writing a piece on his work, and to Daily Maverick as an aspiring Angolan writer asking for help on a book project. (We will not expose the identity of the woman by publishing excerpts or images of the CCTV footage.) His descriptions of his companion are obviously inconsistent and appear to change every time he tells the story. He did not make her number available so that we could confirm his account. Regardless, for the following six hours, they consumed what can only be described as a staggering amount of alcohol — one draught of beer, three bottles of sauvignon blanc, two gin and tonics, and 20 shots of tequila. Pauw claims that there were two additional people drinking on his tab. Daily Maverick has been unable to confirm this detail. 

Shortly before 6.30pm, Pauw was seen in CCTV footage without his companion. He counted out six or seven bills, and attempted to pay the R1,630 cheque with a combo of cash and bank card. The card was declined, and the waiter returned it. In his original column, Pauw claimed that he left his keys and cellphone with the woman at the table and went to draw money from an ATM, using this as “proof” that he would never have considered absconding. This account is untrue. 

Instead, the footage now depicts his female companion returning to the table. She apparently urged the waiter to try the card again. Sitting, she gesticulated at Pauw, who appeared passive and unresponsive. She stood up, took the cash off the table and pocketed it. This would appear to explain the missing R1,000 Pauw accused the police of stealing from him. (To be clear: we do not know why she took the cash.) The woman is also believed to have taken his keys and cellphone, which Pauw now confirms, and he told us that he picked it up from her in Cape Town when he got out of jail. 

The pair then left the restaurant, and the woman apparently went on her way. Pauw claimed that at some point later in the evening his face mask was stripped by the cops. But CCTV footage clearly shows that neither he nor the woman was wearing one at the table. Another boo-boo. 

Two waiters then gave chase. They returned to the restaurant with a compliant Pauw in tow. After a few minutes, Pauw left again without successfully settling his tab, and the waiter followed for a second time. About 12 minutes later, Pauw left for a third time. The manager followed, and Pauw trailed back into the restaurant behind him once again, where he stood front-of-house for more than 15 minutes, trying unsuccessfully to pay with his card. According to a source, he had fumbled his PIN number one time too many, and his card had been blocked by the bank. “Yes, that could absolutely be,” Pauw said when we put this to him. 

The manager can be seen on the phone, and shortly thereafter a V&A security guard arrived. The guard waited around the entrance, speaking on his radio, but did not intervene. 

The deference and patience with which Pauw was treated by the restaurant staff would be touching if it wasn’t so unearned, which brings us to the first sign of the queasy power dynamics this story would eventually elicit. At no point was he manhandled; at no point until his arrest did anyone lay so much as a finger on him. After his third attempt to leave, the security guard eventually asked Pauw to follow him to the control room on the far side of the complex, where he was told that he could provide either a credit card or his ID as collateral, and pay his bill the following day. There, he encountered three SAPS officers, who were, according to a source familiar with the matter, at the venue to investigate the smashing of a car window. According to that same source, Pauw appears to have become paranoid and increasingly belligerent. He allegedly swore at them, and goaded the police to arrest him. 

This they did. 

These details, confirmed by sources, backed up in some cases by CCTV footage, are simultaneously banal and salacious. What we don’t know yet is why the police charged Pauw with theft. As far as his interactions with the cops are concerned, Pauw maintains that he was unlawfully arrested, and injured in the process. 

The details of this miserable little tale are essential to understanding how this story would unravel and implode in the following days. They also lay out the scale of the malpractice. What made Pauw’s piece so compelling was that it concerned the wrongful arrest of a trusted South African truth-teller, who just happened to have a platform and power. But it would soon become a story about the abuse of platforms by those with power

Indeed, it appears that Pauw was given every opportunity to solve his non-dispute – privileges that are not afforded to every South African. Pauw acknowledges as much in his piece, which admittedly contains far more incidental self-awareness than his critics have given him credit for.

“I am privileged and have a public persona,” he wrote, “which others do not have. They are vulnerable and have little recourse.” He then quoted constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos: “The richer and the whiter you are, the less likely that you will be wrongfully arrested.”

On this, it appears, De Vos was dead-on.

The fallout 

In its aftermath, the story lurched its way into the minefield of postmodern journalism’s weak spots, and blew itself to smithereens. 

Following Pauw’s retraction, Twitter went – how shall we put this? – apeshit. And while normal, balanced South Africans don’t spend their days obsessively scrolling through their Twitter feeds, this is where the mediated elite lives, breathes, and prosecutes its grievances. It has entirely supplanted reality for those who craft South Africa’s reality, and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

That said, the column kicked up some very worthy debates. First, it exposed what many described as the “centering” of white male voices in a media-scape that hasn’t transformed nearly as much as it should have over the course of the past quarter-century. White man gets pissed, gets arrested, and then re-crafts the narrative online to make himself look like the aggrieved party. This is an astonishing abuse of power, but it’s also an astonishing display of power. Was this lack of perspective due to an internal bias that naturally listens to powerful men without questioning their authority?

Second, commentators said the piece proved that there were different rules for whites, blacks and everyone in between – pundits were convinced, despite the storm breaking over his head, that Pauw would walk away without censure because he was a white male with a long and impressive CV. 

That said, the fallout for Pauw has been swift and brutal: Daily Maverick has publicly parted ways with him. (He took two opportunities to explain himself to the publication: neither was credible or worthy of quotation. He also spoke with us on several further occasions by phone. No dice.) It remains to be seen whether any other publication or imprint will publish him again. 

Distressingly, if obviously, the fallout has led to questions around media credibility. Both Pauw and Daily Maverick have published controversial, deeply disturbing investigations into the conduct of the South African superstructure over the years. The majority of the people who feature in our stories have faced no real censure themselves, and remain free to discredit the news media. Every single time we get something wrong, they’re handed another piece of ammunition to attack us with. Pauw’s deliberate lies, and our failure to catch them, critics insisted, didn’t just sully himself and Daily Maverick. It damaged the entire institution of journalism at a time when we can least afford it. 

Then there’s the more human level. It’s worth asking: Who is allowed to screw up in public South African life? Who is granted a second, third, fourth chance? Was Pauw suffering a meltdown, like so many journalists dragged through the Hell of Covid, corruption and crime? The same Twitter mob that denounced the evil V&A now turned on Pauw’s cavalcade of social media critics, who were in turn demanding a proper drawing and quartering. It was a cage match of self-righteous indignation. As the British journalist Jon Ronson noted in his book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

“With social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people.” 

The future

South Africans are emotional and damaged, and in the cold light of day it would seem that the answers to above questions are more nuanced than they might originally have appeared. 

But there are systemic issues that the Pauw scandal has exposed, and they pose a clear and present danger to the health of journalism – not just here in South Africa, but everywhere. 

The news media remains a reputation-based, hierarchical business, which is where we encounter a dangerous weakness in how information is industrially processed: a determined writer can obfuscate his or her way through fact-checking and editorial oversight. This is especially true if the writer is a powerful white male with a reputation, but bias can swing the other way, and it often does: every perspective needs to be interrogated, no matter how progressive or en vogue. More importantly, facts matter. If there aren’t enough of them, there is no story.

A second, equally uncomfortable, point: misinformation, distinct in intention from deliberate disinformation, does get published by reputable media brands more often than we’d like. Modern newsrooms, in South Africa and abroad, are maniacally busy, understaffed and subject to the brute cravings of an endless news cycle and an industry in distress. Disinformation – lies – can also slip through the net, especially if it fits the biases of the editorial staff. Every. Single. Publication has biases, but how do we guard against them and incorporate new voices without replacing one orthodoxy for another? How do we institute models that relentlessly question power without enjoying (and exploiting) the power of calling power to account?

It comes down to an obsession with facts.

Facts. The only way a media brand earns the trust of its public is to get the facts right far more often than it gets them wrong. This trust is earned painstakingly, piece by piece, report by report, year after year. Every publication will screw up. But it is the nature of those screw-ups that counts. What does the mistake concern? Why was it made? And how is it addressed?

In this case, there is a clear-cut case of abuse of trust between journalist and editor, and even more so between journalist and reader. Pauw contravened a cardinal principle of investigative journalism when he wrote a personal account, making himself the story while knowing he had gaps in his knowledge and could not remember all of what happened. He used his trust capital and standing as a senior, celebrated journalist to write in vengeance against the police, the restaurant and the Waterfront. He intended to hurt. He was not drunk when writing and later editing, making his fabrications and his ill intentions all the more egregious. 

Publications, Daily Maverick included, have to focus on what an MBA graduate would call our “core business”. Opinion cannot be simply opinion — it has to be relentlessly fact-based. This assertion of basic journalistic principles needs to apply to every sentence of every published piece, regardless of where it sits in the taxonomy. 

When journalists and publications get it wrong, we have to do four things, and do them very quickly. First, correct. Then, if necessary, retract. Then, apologise. Then, analyse. In the course of a single week, Daily Maverick has done all of these things. Every publication has to own its mistakes, just as Daily Maverick has had to own this one – whatever a given writer’s intentions, the contract with readers is the publication’s responsibility alone. We have to be better – much, much better – than the institutions we hold to account. 

Only readers can judge whether this, in the long term, will prove adequate. 

There are many entities that are banking on journalism failing as an institution. As another journalism veteran, Anton Harber, wrote in So, for the Record, his forensic analysis of the South African media, “the crisis in news media is not one the markets alone can solve. It’s not merely a business-model problem, but a political and community problem, a crack in the functioning of democracy. An open democracy will not remain open for long without institutions that will fight to keep it open.” 

Harber’s worthy book was blurbed by a journalistic lodestar and the head boy of the South African media-scape – Jacques Pauw. DM.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Alec Little says:

    Look, the guy had a good track record, don’t feel so bad about publishing it. You made a mistake trusting him but he was trustworthy up until now so don’t blame yourself. Also please don’t make this a white supremacy blah blah toxic masculinity blah blah blah.

    • Winston Bigsby says:

      Well said Alec!

    • Susanna Coleman says:

      Oh myaaaaan it so goldarned is ALL about white male privilege and toxic masculinity. 1.0.1.
      One of the features of WP is that the WPed cannot/refuse to see it. One of the best Jungian rules to take heed of is that, that which pokes your subconscious most, will be that you deny or get most upset about.
      Try a deep dive. Read it again. Google “How I Tackled my White Male Privilege”. Devote a week to looking hard at the nice white male you think you are. Ask a friend of colour to tell you about yourself, you will be hurt and surprised, but you will be stretched. Cos if JP had done this, he wouldn’t be here. And after all, we could all do without these incredible falls from grace. You’ll be a nicer man for it, I assure you.

  • Gideon Kruger says:

    When reading this, you can, almost, understand why they want to ban the sale of alcohol.

    • jcdville stormers says:

      Maybe DM could move on to judge hlope, who is it seems very pro bongani bongo. Hlope has a meticulous record for the last 20 years, never making a mistake and serving justice dept with aplomb🤣🤣🤣

  • Coen Gous says:

    Thank you for writing this Mr. Poplak. This article by you, and the comments made by Prof. Anton Harber on facebook, as well as previous articles on the same issue by Jacques and others, touched me deeply, and more than anything illustrates how frail the human being is. But I for one, would hesitate to slam Mr Pauw. Of course it damaged the very credibility of journalism in this country. And of course corrective action is required. But journalism, and the reliability and credibility thereof is but one pillar of a perfect democracy. As an avid follower of US politics during the flawed Trump years, I can point out that even the biggest powerhouse and democracy in the world, the United States, does not have journalism standards that are even close to perfect. On the contrary. Anyone ever viewing and listening to Fox TV will cringe. The same applies to Sky TV Australia. While there might be room for improvement in this country, please remember that no industry is perfect. And the work that, by-and-large, is done by news media, is more than commendable. Especially in a depressed economy where it is difficult to recruit credible journalists. One weak incident does not destroy the whole. If you believe it, do yourself a favour and investigate what is happening in socialist countries, like Russia, China, Cuba and North Korea, although I am sure you are well aware of that. Please give Mr. Pauw space to deal with this mistake, for which he has apologised, in his own time. There is much more important news than this.

  • Byron Botha says:

    Virtue signal coming through strong here. DM is white and male, but you know, the good kind.

    • Jon Quirk says:

      Funny that, I was under the impression that very many of the Daily Maverick’s finest were female, Ms Thamm, Merten, Davis to mention but a few, and none of whom could in the least be said to be supporters of the status quo.

    • Jonny Cohen says:

      Comment of the year, so far. Yes, there are a few esteemed (white) women on the editorial team. But the self righteous, privileged whiteness that courses through of DM is undeniable. Just look at the comments on any article.

  • Con Tester says:

    This article should have stopped after enumerating the known facts of JP’s case, and left the reader to decide what to make of them. Those facts are gratefully received, but the subsequent descent into unctuous moralising violates several of the dicta it catalogues, not least because it wasn’t published in DM’s “Opinionista” rubric. The latter portion should have formed a separate opinion piece, and so this article perpetuates the conflation of fact-based and opinion-based reporting.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    A champion has fallen. Jacques Pauw made a huge mistake, which I think he really regrets, His reputation was damaged, because he got drunk in 2021. His previous work was credible and up to standard or better. Fact is he is without work and has to contemplate his future. The dissection of his drunken actions and blurred facts is accurate. I still regard the DM as a top class journalistic institution, I am a bit unhappy with extending the analysis. The little bit of dignity he has. don’t go strip that by continuing this post mortem.

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    Wow, what a fandango you guys are are making this.
    JP got drunk, abused his position of trust, lied, embarrassed you all and DM didn’t see it coming.
    Shame. Get over it. Take your Mr Brkic for a couple of beers and try to explain to him he is turning a simple cock-up into a catastrophe that is much more damaging than the origin of the problem.

    • Carel Jooste says:

      Little problem: he was not drunk when he wrote and submitted this piece. It could have died right there but he embarked on an arrogant attempt to ‘punish’ others for his embarrassment.

  • J.F. Aitchison says:

    It’s a great pity that the manager of the restaurant declined Daily Maverick’s initial request to view the CCTV footage.

    Had this opportunity been afforded, and Daily Maverick saw that Pauw’s story was very different to what the camera had recorded, it’s highly unlikely that Daily Maverick would not have published his opinion piece, and this whole sorry saga would not have happened.

  • J LOMBARD says:

    Perhaps the person who should have been brought to book was the young ‘lady’ who took Pauw’s money, keys, and mobile ‘phone. She walked off and left him stranded. The cash could have partly settled the bill. Also, the management of Den Anker should simply have allowed Pauw to pay the next day. It should have been clear to Den Anker that Pauw in his drunken state could never have remembered his card’s pin number. Instead of showing mercy, Pauw was chased down and cornered by Den Anker’s waiters and Waterfront security. At the same time Pauw must have been rendered near senseless by all that alcohol (the tequila explained everything). Was he expected to control his emotions and act rationally? Perhaps Daily Maverick can lay this to rest now. We do not need to know why Pauw wanted to protect his companion’s identity. We do not need to know her account of events. We do need to forgive.

    • Andrew Johnson says:

      Yes sir, well said on all points.

    • Bradley Bergh Bergh says:

      And at least he is remorseful and has apologised which is more than can be said for the plethora of power abusers in this country!

    • Maurice Smithers says:

      Thankfully, being drunk and ‘not knowing what I was doing’ can no longer be used as an ‘excuse’ for rape, nor can someone causing a car crash ask for leniency because “I was drunk at the time, your honour”. And it shouldn’t be used as a reason to ask for understanding when a respectable journalist gets completely vrot, fails to ‘control his emotions and act rationally’, behaves like an idiot and then, on top of it all, writes a dishonest piece when he’s sober. Why did he write the thing at all? And what about professionalism? As far as I can make out from Poplak’s article, he was meeting the young woman (regardless of which version of who she was is correct) to engage with her as a mentor to a young journalist or journalism student. What sort of example was he setting (unless he wanted to initiate her into the drinking habits of the genus Journalist?)?

  • Frik De Villiers says:

    Remember a fact is only only a lack of any further information.

  • Shaun Mbhiza says:

    Growing up, my dad used to buy physical newspapers. One thing I noticed over the years was that no matter the type of publication, tabloid or not, apologies were always buried deep and in a corner far from the front page where the lie was posted.

    This piece on a Saturday morning feels like it’s in the same vein.

    • Con Tester says:

      This article was the top line item on DM’s homepage when it first appeared yesterday afternoon, which is to say that it’s the first thing any DM visitor would see. It’s still at the top this morning. In contrast, JP’s Opinionista pieces first appeared further down on the homepage.

      So much for “buried deep and in a corner far from the front page where the lie was posted.”

  • Jennifer Tait says:

    Daily maverick has handled the fallout from this sad incident really well, setting a good example of how to handle a mistake. DM you are a valuable and much loved bright spot in the grim SA landscape, and above all you have fought bravely for all South Africans against the various internal threats. Thank you. Be kind to yourselves

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    I can fully understand why this incident became such a blown-up affair. In a world where readers are constantly required to check facts for themselves, it would be fantastic to have a news outlet that constantly meets the grade.
    Clearly DM is trying to live up to such a standard. I salute you for that.
    I have been taught in life that it is us humanly impossible to get all the facts at all times and present them truthfully, hence the concept “subjective truth”. If one can push up the bar of this concept as high as possible you have done what is humanly possible.
    DM’s standards are already extremely high and I doubt it if one would easily find something similar anywhere in the world. The world needs this in an era of continuous deliberate disinformation and we have it right here in our back yard. Please keep on setting the example.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Thank you Richard for what sounds a factually accurate account of events. Journalists are renowned, with justification in my experience, for being hardened drinkers and clearly on this afternoon prodigious quantities were consumed and therefore judgement – a key component in all of our lives, and certainly in the case of a journalist with the power to talk directly with a great many people – was severely compromised, which factor, allied to a natural human failing to too easily sugar-coat our own role in events we write about, together gave rise to the opinion piece of Jacques Pauw. Arising from this there are two issues, both reputational but separate and distinct. Clearly JP’s reputation is at best severely damaged and at risk of permanently sinking, or at worst may already have reached this point; I personally wish him well, thank him for his sterling efforts during a long and generally stellar career. The second concerns the Daily Maverick itself. This has the potential to be the most troubling, is that it can empower the ne’er do wells already exposed by the Daily Maverick, who no doubt will seek to smear the entire Daily Maverick journalist pantheon and thus seek to undermine all the dark deeds that DM has exposed. It is not hard to see, for instance, Julius Malema seeking to cast doubt on the contents found and exposed from his dustbin. I believe and trust that the reputation of the Daily Maverick, since inception, is sufficiently robust enough to withstand the buffeting that criminal forces may wish to take advantage from. I believe that, and here the facts speak for themselves, that the handling by the editorial team at the DM has been exemplary and ought to go a long way towards enhancing the reputation of the jornal. We all make mistakes, perhaps not always as spectacularly as JP, and the lasting impression is generally formed less by the initial action itself, and far more by the reaction to the denouement; and here I think the DM has shown its true colours.

  • Wilhelm van Rooyen says:

    Richard, DM in this case is scrathing itself till it bleeds – enough now, this is already old news.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    “Oh, how are the mighty fallen” is the first thought that crossed my mind.
    Mr Pauw chose to misdirect and malignantly denigrate those who allegedly assaulted his person and ego.
    However, the article (and subsequent withdrawal) were both written when he was “in his right mind”. This smacks of deliberate malice and an ill-placed search for vengeance.
    Further, the fact that he enlisted the trusting Daily Maverick as a co-conspirator, supplying dishonest, inaccurate and incomplete evidence takes the situation into the realms of “counter culture”.
    He has asked for and deserves no support or further recognition other than as a classic example of privilege abused.
    Then I am reminded of the observation that “Mercy is the gentle rain that droppeth ….”.

  • Susan Keegan says:

    There is plenty of blame passed around in this sorry story but one of the main reasons for the debacle has been overlooked. No bar or restaurant should be allowed to sell that much alcohol to a patron. We need a law that makes it illegal to sell another drink to someone who is drunk.

    • Cecilia Wedgwood says:

      Maybe not a Law but just common sense and decency!

    • Winston Bigsby says:

      You ever hear of freedom of choice? Or would you prefer to be monitored by the Cele fun police?

    • David Macdonald says:


    • Inga Lawson says:

      If such decency were upheld we would have fewer accidents and trauma cases filling emergency rooms and ultimately not having to punish people who enjoy a glass or two with their meal, with total prohibition. No freedom without responsibility

    • Maurice Smithers says:

      The National Norms and Standards issued in terms of the Liquor Act 59 of 2003, say the following:
      “4.4 .1 Sale or supply of liquor to intoxicated persons
      The licensee, manager or any person in charge of the prern1ses must not sell or supply liquor to any person who already appears 1ntox1cated. To do so is an offence ….”
      The Norms and Standards were signed off by Alan Winde, then MEC for Economic Affairs, in 2014 (with a caveat which shouldn’t have impinged on this particular clause).
      And Clause 76(b) of the Western Cape Liquor Act of 2008 says it is an offence if someone: “sells or supplies liquor to a drunk person or, being a licensee or a person in charge of licensed premises, allows a drunk and disorderly person to remain upon those premises.” I don’t think many alcohol outlets adhere to these rules.

  • Karel Vlok says:

    Ag shame, blame the white oke and alcohol. Mr Pauw has lost his credibility, which is a pity. DM is a portal, and not responsible for the claim/s miracle magnesium and others make.

    The real hero’s are the waiter, V&A security, and Den Anker for protecting its patron even when he may deserve no protection.

    Suggest DM take Mr Pauw for a beer (keep your mask on just in case someone sees you mixing with riff-raff – alledgedly) and use my Uber voucher home – it seem with this company you’ll need it.

    Thanks for a lekker juicy story.

    • Jon Quirk says:

      If I add up the cost of the liquor on the bill, it comes to more than R1600, unless this waterfront restaurant is selling alcohol considerably lower than the general cost of booze in this expensive locale, which begs the question, is it morally right to sell these vast quantities of alcohol, to a pair of customers drinking over a six-hour period? Where is the responsible behaviour of the licensee?

      • Con Tester says:

        Please look up the meaning of “beg the question.” It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

        • Jon Quirk says:

          I think you’ll find it does ….

          • Con Tester says:

            DM has a peculiar paranoia about hyperlinks, even disguised ones. So try this:
            “https” prefix, synapses (dot) co (dot) za (slash) no-that-doesnt-actually-beg-the-question

        • Bradley Harber says:

          I suggest that you should look up the meaning of ‘beg the question’. It has multiple meanings. The definition in the Oxford, Cambridge, Collins and Mirriam-Webster dictionaries all include the manner in which Mr Quirk used it ‘If a statement or situation begs the question, it causes you to ask a particular question’ (Cambridge) and ‘(of a fact or action) raises a point that has not been dealt with; invites an obvious question’ (Oxford). The second meaning is presumably the one that you prefer, or see as the only one, being to ‘assume the truth of an argument or proposition, without arguing it’ (Oxford). Use of the first definition is not without controversy; this is quite well explained in an article on the Merriam-Webster website entitled ‘Beg the question: It’s not begging at all’. I won’t spell out the address as I am sure you can find it. Whatever your views on the matter, I think you may owe Mr Quirk an apology, as he used it both correctly and acceptably.

          You are also more than welcome to pass this along to the expert in critical thinking at Stellenbosch University, whose article begs the question as to whether he did any prior research before penning it.

          • Con Tester says:

            I see that some dictionaries’ new versions do include the meaning you describe, but when I consult my 20-odd year old OED, it says ONLY, “assume truth of thing to be proved or thing equivalent to it, (pop.) evade difficulty;” which is also the only meaning I was taught at school. Thus, it’s safe to say that the phrase’s misuse has recently become so widespread that newer editions now provide its perverted meaning, even in some cases as the primary one.

            And so, Rousseau’s fears have materialised, and the English language has again lost some expressional precision to the unlettered whimsies of the horde.

        • Bradley Harber says:

          You seem to be passionate about the English language and its usage, which I respect, as I am too. I find debates like this fascinating. As an enthusiast, and not for the purposes of advancing one argument over the other, have a look at the Mirriam-Webster article I referred to (if you haven’t done so already, as well as the post by Stan Carey cited in that article, which is a very balanced analysis of the phrase, its usage and the arguments put forward by the proponents and opponents of the more modern meaning, which is not as recent as one may think. If you search for ‘Stan Carey beg the question’ it is the first result.

          • William Stucke says:

            Your reply, Bradley, RAISES the question of why you quote a USian language source for an issue of correct ENGLISH usage?


    I agree with the article and I’m sorry for Mr Pauw, all at the same time. I still think he’s a great journalist (one stuff-up doth not ruin him: the story will in due course become a footnote in his biography). But mostly I’m interested in the comment by J Lombard, who says he wants to know more about the young lady. Me too. Because a mere week ago I was similarly conned by a young lady at a coffee shop, who scooped up my cellphone when we left and now the shopping centre won’t let me have sight of the CCTV footage to prove it. And I’m wondering if it was the same young lady. Or are we experiencing a wave of cellphone-stealing young ladies?
    PS: we were both stone-cold sober at the time. Does that matter?

    • Maurice Smithers says:

      Harry, read that article again. She wasn’t a random ‘cellphone-stealing young lady’. They were meeting on journalistic business. And when he came out of police custody, he got it back from her. Perhaps she took them to prevent him from driving and from losing his cellphone. From the story, it sounds like he consumed the lion’s share of the booze and she was perhaps in a better state to think about what was happening. Sounds to me, too, that she might have ‘abandoned’ him because he was being so damned embarrassing, as people who are extremely drunk tend to be.

  • Cecilia Wedgwood says:

    Tragic. Hopefully this will be his “Rock Bottom” and he will seek help.
    AA is a fantastic organisation.

    • Paddy Ross says:

      This is the most pertinent comment that I have read so far. He has a serious addiction problem and the first step to beat it is to acknowledge that he has a problem and to seek help.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Thanks for the info Poplak, the detail is impressive investigative journalism indeed! So impressive in fact that it could have been one tenth the length and twice as effective! Man! It is great to be in a position of power! Now could you please advise the following: 1/ One of the most respected writers/journalists of all time was the American drunkard who wrote about old men and the sea as well as some pub scenes in Spain. How about doing a comparative piece between Pauw and that pub-happy yank? (yank/jerk, same same) 2/ Please advise (honestly) have YOU ever been drunk in public at the Waterfront or in Hillbrow?

  • Reg Taylor says:

    Horrible translation: booze has no brakes. But really disappointing behavior.

  • Derek Alberts says:

    Okayyyyyy … enough now of the belly-button gazing. JP cocked up, big time, maybe he’ll be in the wilderness forever. DM was hoodwinked, it apologised profusely, and hopefully RP has now drawn the curtain on this sorry saga that, one day, we’ll reminisce over a klippies and coke.

  • Wanda Hennig says:

    Whew. Newsroom lunchtime legends of yesteryear used to run up this kind of bar bill. Regularly. A little staggering to see now… “Regardless, for the following six hours, they consumed what can only be described as a staggering amount of alcohol — one draught of beer, three bottles of sauvignon blanc, two gin and tonics, and 20 shots of tequila.” No wonder he didn’t remember much of the evening. That initial story, now taken down, was a good read. It did leave many questions, some now answered. As someone has already commented here, pity the restaurant didn’t let the Daily Maverick see the video footage when they were asked, ahead of publication. I can understand why DM published the piece. I wonder why Mr Pauw, when he had sobered up, was so intent on writing it. Maybe he’ll shed light on this sometime. Hope so.

    • Colleen Dardagan says:

      I hope so too Wanda!

    • Con Tester says:

      See, this is what so bothers me about this sordid affair: Almost everyone commenting thereon is salivating at the opportunity of ascribing to JP devious motives that ease the path towards condemning him, all the while bleating about “fact-based” this and that. But those inferences, while they appear to be true and may well be so, certainly are not facts—unless those who announce them also claim the magical ability to divine accurately JP’s thoughts, emotions, and intentions. The fickle high-horse brigade should, in my view, engage in more of critical introspection and less of smug denunciation until JP himself either confirms or refutes their narrative.

    • J LOMBARD says:

      Allow me to explain the tequila thing. I binged on tequila once. I remember the raucous start to the night. I remember the challenge to a tequila boat race. I narrowly lost, but I was fine. The night was off to a good start. Then it hit me. I remember being briefly suspended horizontally in midair. Then I crashed full length to the floor. I blacked out. I remember coming to and seeing a couple of cops peering down at me. I blacked out again. It took me a week to recover. My bruises and lacerations and ruined clothes testified to a brawl of which I remember nothing. In the days that followed I was a stranger in a strange land. Surreal. Pauw was probably in that strange land, tequila land, when he wrote his original piece.

      • William Stucke says:

        Well said, J Lombard. There are all these assumptions that JP wrote his piece while sober, and hence is an evil and vindictive person. That amount of alcohol doesn’t clear itself from your body overnight. There’s a reason one says:

        One Tequila, two Tequila, three Tequila, floor!

  • Winston Bigsby says:

    Poplak is the dogs bollocks! Wish I could write like this..🤙

  • stan garrun Garrun says:

    Much ado about .. not such a big deal. Older journo gets drunk and behaves abominably! The news fraternity gives itself too much credit and is once again taking itself far too seriously. It is what it was – forgive him, let it go – or don’t. Doesn’t sound like he hurt anyone, not really..
    He is a great truth teller – most of the time. Has taken much abuse in pursuit of it and this is how it erupted.
    In my day journos were healthier, they all drank to excess and behaved badly, and not only once in a blue moon. Move it on guys.

  • Ritchie Morris says:

    Besides the dishonest cock-up by Mr Pauw…………how can a restaurant owner and waiter serve TWO people so much alcohol and expect them to behave in a sensible and rationale manner?
    …..”they consumed what can only be described as a staggering amount of alcohol — one draught of beer, three bottles of sauvignon blanc, two gin and tonics, and 20 shots of tequila”.
    Not even two young party-fit and liver hardened varsity students would cope with this amount.
    Should restaurants not be held partly responsible for the behaviour of their patrons?

  • Lionel Krause says:

    In a less fraught country in a less fraught time a Shakespearean tragededlet

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Poplak – Why is this still top of the news? Seems DM is getting nasty…..

  • Jeremy Carpenter says:

    with a healthy dose of imagination, one can see where this tale started and ended. We don’t need to over-analyse it. Hindsight is the perfect science as the cliche reminds us. A better approach might be to look in the mirror. Everyone. Including Mr Poplak I’d think.

  • Coen Gous says:

    This is now 5:45 0n Sunday morning 21 February that I write this comment. This after I opened my laptop to read the latest news. In the process I opened DM in the hope to find the latest DM168 news that they publish in a printed newspaper but only available at some P&P stores. The closest P&P to me is 40km away, so I seldom shop there, especially as a Spar shop is a mere 1km away from where I live. But horror on horror, this article by Poplak is still top of the pops, almost 3 days after it was published. That after several other articles/opinion pieces on the same subject. In the meantime there was other news that happened, horrific news, like the release of the latest serious crime statistics. Yet DM decided in their wisdom to keep this issue as the most important news, today, yesterday, and in fact almost a week. Not even Zuma got that kind of attention from DM. Obviously Poplak in his team is so proud of their investigation on Mr. Pauw that they can’t stop glorifying in their incredible investigation ability. No doubt they count the number of comments to this article, achieving in amazing 68 at the time of writing. What saddens me even more, is that DM has decided to destroyed Mr. Pauw’s credibility forever. Why, are they jealous of Mr. Pauw success as a journalist? And the incredible investigations he did on his own, without the assistance of a large team of permanent investigators. Mr Poplak, I am appalled in the way you handled this matter. This was not a mere facebook piece, it is the action of one of the most respected news outlets in this country. O.K., we all know now that you never consume alcohol, and that you are just wonderful, but for heavens sake, please get over it, less you destroy your own reputation as well.

  • Coen Gous says:

    Apologies, my previous comment refer to Sunday, and this is Saturday of course. But then, as a retired person, every day to me is like a Sunday. But my comment stays

  • David MacDonald says:

    Thank you for doing this article, I think it was very necessary and seems to tell the proper story. The importance for you and for me is until this article I did strongly consider withdrawing my monthly payment and I am sure there are many who may feel the same way.
    The other important thing is that non of us are infallible and sometimes to much success gets to even the individuals we perceive have the most integrity. I hope Mr Pauw has learnt from this.

  • Clinton Herring says:

    This is good

  • DONALD MOORE says:

    I have read the article and all the comments posted to this time (noon on Sunday). I presume to give 2 bits of advice to all who have ears to hear and eyes to read and minds to think. Firstly to all who read this: don’t drink any alcohol or if you must drink, drink much less. Secondly to businesses which trade in alcohol for consumption: if your patrons cannot exercise constraint you should not fail in your duty to exercise constraint.
    I am particularly indebted to Maurice Smithers and Jon Quirk for their contributions.
    Oh and about the article: Thank you and well written Mr Poplak. I find your writing with less swearing far easier to read.

    • Winston Bigsby says:

      What is it with the alcohol police? The great thing about being an adult is freedom of choice. Who are u to tell us how to behave? Don’t drink alcohol, or if u do drink less & less swearing?

  • Fiona Wallace says:

    OMW. If nothing else, this has been a (vain)glorious opportunity for South African white males to gaan aan at each other. I had no idea there were so many of you still around. Enough now. Shurrup.

  • Chris Kirsten says:

    “With social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain. It’s all very sweeping, and not the way we actually are as people.” Ron Johnson missed it all by a mile, two, there. It is exactly who we are. This article, no matter style or character, is full of it. Simply a repeat of the Twitter angst and knee jerks on fake news and troll comments. There need be no nuanced responses to such-like. One straight response would be to simply keep your head and your fingers off the buttons. Time to read the poem If by Rudyard Kipling again. What struck me as badly off colour is Poplak’s defence of DM while DM willingly submitted to the autocratic rule against criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic. Defending truth? Fake news and even down right rubbish should be aired. We are all adults and can make up our own minds. DM is as guilty of this as are Facebook, Google and Twitter. Cobbler keep to your last. You are reporters, If you want to be opinion makers, please get out of the business of reporting. This way your power is not calling power to account. Stop being traitors to your own cause of press freedom.

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