OPINION Pauw merely the messenger
IF THERE’S one salutary lesson to be learnt from the heavy-handed attempts to silence journalist and author Jacques Pauw over his controversial book, The President’s Keepers, it’s that South Africans should not take their hard-foughtfor democracy for granted.
Democracy, after all, did not arrive in our country on a silver platter.
For many decades, the majority of South Africans lived under strict authoritarian rule in which the government of the day simply rode rough shod over the rights of citizens to perpetuate an evil and racist regime.
In fact, it took many years of long and protracted struggle, strife and sacrifice before democracy was achieved in 1994.
It is for this reason that we need to work vigorously to ensure these rights are never legislated away nor should they be diluted, threatened or subjected to the momentary whim of an electoral majority at any given time.
Playing an invaluable role in this process was the media, especially investigative journalists who used their craft to probe wrongdoing and corruption and call government and private corporations to account.
Despite the repressive political climate under apartheid, journalists braved imprisonment and restrictions by exposing the excesses of authoritarian rule and the miserable conditions millions of citizens were forced to endure under National Party rule.
Remember Drum magazine’s investigation into prison and farm labour conditions in the 1950s; the exposes over the so-called Info Scandal in which the Nats used taxpayer funds to whitewash their dirty propaganda campaign; and stories that revealed the horrors of the Vlakplaas death squads?
When democracy came in 1994, that proud tradition of lively investigative journalism was maintained, giving rise to major exposes over the now infamous arms deal, government corruption, white collar crimes and more recently, the Nkandla scandal,
Pauw’s book, which includes revelations of shocking allegations of irregularities and corruption involving President Jacob Zuma and many other leading politicians and government officials, is but another chapter in a long-running and robust campaign to ensure accountability in government.
Threatening to charge Pauw and preventing further publication of his book is simply a case of shooting the messenger.
The government has a duty and responsibility to the public to get to the bottom of the serious allegations made in Pauw’s book which impact directly on the lives of ordinary people.
Rather than threatening Pauw with spurious charges, get to the heart of the matter by probing the allegations in his book.
If and when there is evidence of criminal involvement, those accused of crimes must answer in court.
And if heads must roll, so be it.