South Africa

Right of Reply

Daily Maverick apologises to Aristeidis Danikas, affords him right of reply

Daily Maverick apologises to Aristeidis Danikas, affords him right of reply
Former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alon Skuy)

Aristeidis Danikas complained to the Press Ombudsman about aspects of a story by Jacques Pauw under the headline Confidential NPA report exposes senior officials who lied about Johan Booysen, yet they are still employed. The majority of the complaint was dismissed but Daily Maverick was found to have transgressed clause 1.8 of the Press Code, which stipulates among others that the media “shall seek the views of the subject of critical reportage in advance of publication” as well as clause 3.3 which relates to reputational damage. The publication has been sanctioned and ordered to apologise to Danikas as well as publish his reply. We apologise to Mr Danikas and publish his full response, approved by the Ombudsman below.

Read the full ombudsman ruling here.

On 5 August 2020 Daily Maverick published an article written by Mr Jacques Pauw under the headline:

DECADE OF DECEIT LAID BARE: Confidential NPA report exposes senior officials who lied about Johan Booysen, yet they are still employed. 

“Top prosecutors at the National Prosecuting Authority lied and concocted false evidence in a desperate attempt to nail former top Hawk Johan Booysen and the so-called Cato Manor death squad.”

The content included matter that was damaging to my reputation. Following a complaint the Press Ombudsman ruled that Daily Maverick had transgressed clauses 1.8 and 3.3 of the Press Code by not giving me a right of reply before publication, and by harming my reputation, and ordered Daily Maverick to publish my reply on particular points.

These points are:

  • The claim that the prosecutors left Greece “empty-handed”;
  • The reasons I did not sign the English version of my statement;
  • The allegation that I “stole” R300,000 from my business partner shortly before leaving the country, and that my business partner had died “shortly after”.

I am grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight.

I am a dual citizen of Greece and South Africa. From 2001 to 2008 I served as a reservist member of the Cato Manor Serious and Violent Crime (later Organised Crime) Unit in Durban while running a successful electronics business. Prior to that I had become close family friends with the creator of the unit, Johan Booysen.

In 2007 I raised my concerns about human rights abuses committed by the members of the Cato Manor unit. This led to my receiving threats, as a result of which I fled the country, in fear of my and my family’s safety, to Greece, the country of my birth.

In 2012, I agreed to testify as a witness in a criminal case against members of the Cato Manor unit and its creator, General Johan Booysen. 

In his article, Mr Pauw wrote that I left South Africa “overnight” in 2008, after I “stole” R300,000 from my former business partner, Zonke Mthethwa. 

This is untrue. I enjoyed a healthy professional working relationship with Ms Mthethwa, who bought a portion of my business before I left South Africa and continued to run the store successfully until her tragic death four years later. I categorically deny Pauw’s suggestion that I stole from her. There is not a shred of evidence to support such an allegation other than the say so of General Booysen. Ms Mthethwa never initiated or threatened to initiate any civil or criminal proceedings against me. 

To buttress his argument before the Ombudsman, Mr Pauw obtained a sworn affidavit from General Booysen asserting that Ms Mthethwa had made such an allegation to him before she died “shortly after” my departure from South Africa. The fact is that Ms Mthethwa died some four years after I left the country. If Ms Mthethwa had wished to make a complaint against me she had plenty of time to do so. The fact is that she did not.

On the claim that prosecutor Sello Maema returned from Greece “empty-handed” after visiting me in Greece in 2016: again, this is not true. 

In 2015, Maema, in response to repeated requests from my lawyer Julian Knight to the NPA to clarify my witness protection status, wrote an email that expressed the NPA’s doubts about using me as a witness. Mr Pauw quoted this email out of context to imply that I was not regarded as a credible witness by the NPA. This is not a correct or fair implication.

At a recorded meeting with Maema at the South African embassy with my attorneys present in 2016, he apologised for the mistrust his email had caused and assured me of the value that the NPA attached to my testimony as a witness.

Subsequent to this visit, Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) proceedings were commenced by the NPA, which led to me providing the NPA with a signed and sworn statement setting out the detailed allegations I made against members of the Unit, in Greek.

It is factually incorrect for Pauw to write that I refused to sign an English translation of the affidavit deposed to by me in Greek. I was never asked to sign any English translation of my original affidavit.

It is incorrect to say that the NPA returned “empty handed” from the visit. 

In fact, the NPA left Greece with a USB stick, containing a mass of evidentiary materials, in a sealed evidence container, typed notes from a two-day presentation, a witness protection agreement, agreement to proceed with the issuing of the MLA to sign in Greece, and an agreement for me to testify from a safe location in Europe. This can be verified with the NPA.

The evidence on my USB stick included:

      – Photographs, some that I took, showing that a body was moved at two Cato Manor crime scenes before the IPID arrived;

      – The contents of the hard drive of a Cato Manor member’s computer that I was repairing that contained incriminating evidence, including what the member told me was his personal collection of trophy photographs of dead, wounded and dying suspects;

      – High-resolution videos of a Cato Manor crime scene where the suspect is allowed to bleed to death while the members are making fun of him;

      – Documents of my official correspondence, reports and duty logs as a Cato Manor SAPS reservist;

      – A video that I took of a suspect being tortured at the Cato Manor offices by Cato Manor unit officers;

      – A video in which a high ranking-officer linked to the Cato Manor unit describes, in the presence of me and my wife, how he and Cato Manor members were shooting at African pedestrians for fun with a pellet gun while on duty.

There is a paper trail to prove that from the time the NPA visited me in Greece in 2016 until the charges were withdrawn against the members of the Cato Manor Unit in 2019, I was considered a valuable witness. My evidence has never been tested in a court of law, so there are no grounds to suggest, as Pauw’s article does, that I am discredited as a witness of human rights abuses by the Unit.

Mr Pauw attacked my integrity and reputation. He did so even though he has never met me or spoken to me. He never tried to hear my version of the story, which is why the Press Ombud has ordered Daily Maverick to apologise to me. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Clinton Herring says:

    Oh wow, it’s sad DM is still feeling the effects of being associated with Jacques Pauw. We all trusted him and I’m disappointed that it turned out he had very little integrity.

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    Makes me wonder how many ‘fibs’ are recorded in his book about zuma and those protecting him. Extremely disappointing.

  • Angelo Agrizzi says:

    What astonished me about this concocted and convoluted story that Danikas sets out is quite simply that highly educated people within the Judiciary and the NPA all agreed that the “Cato Death Squad”never existed and that Danikas must have had to much Klefitiko (drunken roasted lamb) (my embellishment). How on earth can one believe the story ? well at first I did, I was sure he was the real deal, then a simple less nostalgic cross check revealed something was not kosher;
    1. Did the story hitb headlines before Danikas vanished? – Nope – it was not evident that Danikas was a whistleblower till long afterwards .
    2. If Danikas felt threatened why did he send Johan Booysen photos of him and his wife in the wedding dress, as well as pictures of his son, well after the so called escape.
    3. Danikas parades these certificates and whistleblower awards as if they are quasi Emmy Awards or just shy of the Nobel award, yet they don’t have any substance they are merely creations on some grecian desktop thwart with spelling mistakes reminiscent of kindergarten well done certificates
    4. Danikas is the founder – and self appointed CEO of his NGO Blueprint – there is simply no history no credibility and no substance
    5. Danikas seems to use racism to protect himself by labelling others as racists, yet when confronted blames it on PTSD

    The question is simply, if senior well respected Judges who have an impeccable track record of sound judgements how is it possible that they could have made a mistake and overlooked the sins of Cato Manor? The answer is “there were no such incidents”- Is Danikas and his support structure being victimised or targeted – No!, they merely cannot subscribe to hearing the truth and seeing the facts. If you feeling stupid, don’t worry, you not alone! I too was fooled by Aris Danikas (only for a moment)

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