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Opinionista

Best seller leaves the NPA very little choice but to investigate accusations

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In real life, Professor Balthazar is one of South Africa’s foremost legal minds. He chooses to remain anonymous, so it doesn’t interfere with his daily duties.

Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Gangster State has become a best seller, in significant part due to the most successful PR campaign run on behalf of the book by supporters of Ace Magashule.

Unquestionably, Gangster State contains a welter of allegations against Ace Magashule, which if untrue are so defamatory that any innocent victim would be compelled to institute defamation proceedings, no matter the cost and the difficult nature of this kind of action. But apart from the extracts published in various newspapers, one wonders how many people would read a book that is as user-friendly as a detailed indictment in criminal proceedings. Indeed, the Mueller report makes for a far easier read than the overwhelming and often repetitive detail contained in this book which makes it an almost impossible read from start to finish.

In short, the gate-crashers at the launch of this book did more to ensure that a wider audience than the person desperate for a cure for insomnia would attempt a comprehensive read. These critical observations of the style of writing and presentation are not only designed to pay tribute to the Free State ANC Youth League as a PR company for the book but to point to a much more significant issue. Myburgh could have written an extended essay distilling the key points to which was attached an appendix of the supporting details. That would doubtless have got more people to read it carefully but the book serves a far more important purpose.

It is a South African version of the Mueller report save that it has been written by a brave and enormously diligent and determined journalist rather than a special counsel. In the US, its obvious democratic flaws notwithstanding, the criminal justice system generated the report; in South Africa thanks to the collapse of key agencies being caused by the replacement of the Scorpions by the Hawks and the capture of the NPA, it has been brave journalists like Jacques Pauw and Myburgh who have produced what in a functioning democratic system would have been investigations followed by indictments produced by a policing agency and the NPA.

In summary, Pieter-Louis Myburgh has done what an independent, skilled and diligent investigation agency of the state should have done and a long time ago.

It is a damning indictment of the Premier of the Free State and of the state of our criminal justice system in which their role has been taken over by investigative journalists who sadly cannot move to the second stage and institute prosecutions.

So whatever the criticism of the readability of the book by we the lay public, it should and must be read by the head of the NPA, Shamila Batohi and her senior colleagues. The book makes compelling claims of the capture of the precious resources of the Free State, of billions of taxpayer money flowing to a select few, being family friends and cohorts of the then Premier of the Free State at the expense of the homeless, the unemployed; the very people that had legitimate expectations that democracy would recognise their dignity and grant them the infrastructure to live a decent life.

Piling case upon case of corruption and nepotism, Myburgh effectively charges the Free State government led by Magashule with conduct which is totally destructive of the constitutional vision of freedom, dignity and equality of all who live in this country.

As if it needs emphasis, these are only allegations, or charges if you wish, unproven in a court and which may turn out to have little, if any justification. While the gravity of these charges makes it all the more surprising that Magashule has not followed through with his initial threat to sue Myburgh, that is his choice.

By contrast, the NPA should have no choice – it is compelled to initiate a comprehensive investigation into all the narrative contained in this book with the first objective being to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case of theft, corruption, racketeering, tax evasion against any of the many characters named in this book.

Myburgh has done the hard yards by producing what amounts to a detailed report of conduct, which if proved is a lot more than unbecoming. The least that can be expected now of the agencies that the taxpayer funds to ensure that the rule of law is respected is that they announce a full-scale, urgent investigation into these depressing claims.

We are constantly told to wait until after the election next month. That is hardly an adequate justification for the country has been waiting patiently for years for any action to be taken against high-profile political figures of whom similar allegations have been made.

It is understandable that the details of official investigations be kept secret but political considerations should play no part in the decision to investigate. The public is at least entitled to know whether what is contained, for example in Myburgh’s book, is of sufficient credibility to justify prosecution. The country has waited too long already. While unlikely to win a Nobel Prize for literature, Pieter-Louis Myburgh has performed a national service upon which the NPA is now obliged to react. DM

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