On Monday, 8 February, I received a call from an external contributor, Jacques Pauw, in which he informed me about his arrest on Saturday, 6 February. He was livid with the way he was treated and asked Daily Maverick to publish a column about his experience.
A first draft was sent on Tuesday and the final version of the column arrived on Wednesday.
Upon reading it, we decided to publish it as a column, as opposed to our own report. Given the nature of the allegations in his piece, we also decided to check the veracity of Pauw’s claims – an unusual extra step for an opinion piece.
Over the next two days we contacted the V&A Waterfront, SAPS and the unnamed restaurant, requesting their side of the story and also an opportunity to review any CCTV footage of the incident.
The results of our efforts were affixed at the bottom of Pauw’s column when it appeared:
Update: On Friday Pauw was due to lay a charge at the police station and then submit his affidavit to the IPID for unlawful arrest, assault and theft.
The V&A Waterfront’s Senior Operations Manager, Deon Sloane, declined to comment. “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.”
When asked if Daily Maverick could view the CCTV footage, he said the matter was sub judice.
SAPS Western Cape spokesperson Federick van Wyk responded: “The accused was arrested for theft whereby he allegedly could not pay for his bill at the restaurant. A warning statement was obtained from him and he was released on a warning to appear in court. The case has been postponed to 2021-03-30.”
The restaurant owner declined to comment. The name of the restaurant has not been disclosed as Pauw’s complaint is against the police, not the restaurant.
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.
I believe that one of South Africa’s foremost investigative journalists being arrested, mistreated and thrown into jail on Saturday night is indeed important news that merits publication, even if in the form of an opinion piece and not a full-blown investigation. This is especially true in a country with a culture of police brutality and wrongful arrest.
In our work we encounter many people who ignore our requests for comments/clarification/confirmations and it is not unusual that no such thing is forthcoming for a majority of stories. Should the “no comment” or “not going on record” be a bar too high, a good 50% of stories would never see the light of day – a lack of cooperation from people involved is nothing new in our daily business. At the time of publication and with the information we had, and after our work in the background, we felt compelled to publish.
We have also offered a right to reply to the as-yet-unnamed restaurant involved, an offer which still stands.
We continued with our fact-checking even after the opinion piece was published. We have now managed to obtain security footage of the incident. We are conducting our own investigation, and we will inform you of the results should they be different from the details in Pauw’s statement.
Pauw contacted me on Tuesday, 16 February and indicated that his story had changed and that he would have to issue a statement of apology. After submitting several drafts he went ahead and posted it on Twitter before Daily Maverick could publish, another puzzling and unethical act.
Our note at the top of his statement said:
A note from Daily Maverick Editor: Last week Friday Daily Maverick published an opinion column by investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw after he alerted us to his arrest at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. We did so after contacting both the unnamed restaurant involved as well as the police and the V&A Waterfront offering them an opportunity to comment. The restaurant declined to speak to Daily Maverick on the record. Requests for CCTV footage were also declined. We published the comments we did obtain from SAPS and Waterfront as footnotes. We took these steps because Pauw’s column made serious allegations around his arrest, including that the police had stolen cash he had on him and that the restaurant had refused any alternative efforts to settle the bill. We informed the restaurant that we would be publishing Pauw’s column and it was in their interests to give their version of events.
Prior to publication, Daily Maverick interrogated some of the elements in Pauw’s column with him and edited it accordingly where appropriate. Although Pauw admitted he had been drinking, he assured Daily Maverick his version was correct and he pointed to the waiter’s statement to police as corroboration. Once published, we continued our investigation and obtained the CCTV footage.
Pauw issued a statement on Tuesday after meeting with the restaurant and V&A Waterfront management on Monday.
We are publishing Pauw’s latest version of events and apology as a matter of urgency, to put the record straight. We undertake to continue our investigation and update readers if there are any further developments or findings that are at variance with Pauw’s statement.
Given the factual inaccuracies in the original column, Daily Maverick has unpublished the piece.
Could we have done anything different? We certainly could, but hindsight is 20/20 vision. In the real world, we’re always busy writing the first draft of history. It is also important to note that we did not leave the story after publishing the column but decided to investigate further. In extreme cases, a draft needs to be thrown in the garbage can, where it belongs.
As a commitment to our readers, we will institute a review and will endeavour to further tighten up our editorial processes.
Where I am truly sorry is that, regardless of who’s guilty in this unnecessary distraction and the form it took, incorrect information reached you, the reader. We at Daily Maverick at all times strive to tell you the truth to the best of our abilities. This time I failed you, and for that, I apologise unreservedly. DM
PS: Jacques Pauw will no longer be part of Daily Maverick’s team of contributors.