When re­tired in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Jac­ques Pauw re­leased his ex­plo­sive ex­posé, The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers: Those Keep­ing Zuma in Power and out of Prison, the State Se­cu­rity Agency im­me­di­ately wanted it re­moved from cir­cu­la­tion. Who is the man who dared to

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - By Shireen Fisher Pho­to­graphs by Liza van Deven­ter

The man be­hind the in­cen­di­ary ex­posé The Pres­i­dent’s Keeper, PLUS an ex­tract from the book

‘ AT the mo­ment, I’m suf­fer­ing from an iden­tity cri­sis,’ says Jac­ques as we sit in 45-de­gree heat in the court­yard of Red Tin Roof, the Riebeek-Kas­teel guest­house and restau­rant he opened with his wife, for­mer jour­nal­ist Sam Rogers, when they ‘re­tired’ in 2014. ‘I don’t know what I am. Dur­ing the week I am busy with pub­lic­ity for the book but on week­ends I’m help­ing in the kitchen be­cause we’re so packed at the mo­ment.’

An ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ jour­nal­ist, he had no idea what to do with his po­lit­i­cal sci­ence de­gree af­ter his na­tional ser­vice, so when he saw a news­pa­per ad for a ju­nior jour­nal­ist at

Rap­port, he ap­plied. ‘It wasn’t as though I had a great pas­sion to be­come a jour­nal­ist.’ Jac­ques, who grew up in Pre­to­ria, says his par­ents weren’t too keen on jour­nal­ism as a ca­reer for him ei­ther. ‘They were quite con­ser­va­tive. My fa­ther was a head­mas­ter and my mother, a teacher. Up to the day my mother died, she asked: “So when are you go­ing to get a proper job?”’

He worked at Rap­port un­til 1987 be­fore mov­ing to Huisgenoot for about a year. ‘At the end of 1988, Max du Preez de­cided to start an anti-apartheid Afrikaans news­pa­per, Vrye Week­blad. He had great dif­fi­culty get­ting peo­ple to work for him be­cause he didn’t quite know where the money was go­ing to come from, and it was quite risky be­cause there was still se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion,’ says Jac­ques. ‘So Max, my­self, and four oth­ers started this news­pa­per. It was a great adventure. In the first edi­tion, we fea­tured a pho­to­graph of Joe Slovo on the front cover. At the time, the ANC and the Com­mu­nist Party were banned, so Max was im­me­di­ately charged with vi­o­lat­ing se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion.’

This didn’t de­ter them in the least. ‘In the sec­ond edi­tion, I de­famed PW Botha, who was pres­i­dent at the time.’ Botha duly sued Jac­ques, which hit the head­lines. ‘I re­mem­ber my mother phon­ing me, cry­ing. She asked if I could use a pseu­do­nym be­cause

I’d be­come a scan­dal to the fam­ily.

‘We pro­gressed from there – Max be­came the most pros­e­cuted and per­se­cuted edi­tor in South African news­pa­per his­tory. We re­ceived many death threats, our of­fices were bombed and in Novem­ber 1989 we ex­posed the po­lice death squads at Vlak­plaas. We ex­posed Eu­gene de Kock, which be­came a huge in­ter­na­tional story.’ Jac­ques stayed at Vrye

Week­blad un­til 1992. He has worked for some of the coun­try’s big­gest pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing a stint as head of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism at Me­dia24 news­pa­pers, and has pro­duced doc­u­men­taries on wars and con­flicts in Rwanda, Bu­rundi, Al­ge­ria, Liberia, Su­dan, the DRC and Sierra Leone, win­ning sev­eral awards along the way (in­clud­ing CNN African Jour­nal­ist of the Year Award – twice). He’s also writ­ten five books: In the Heart of the Whore, Into the Heart of Dark­ness, Dances with Devils, Rat Roads and Lit­tle Ice Cream Boy.

So per­haps it was to be ex­pected that his re­tire­ment in 2014 was short-lived. ‘I was tired of jour­nal­ism and tired of writ­ing,’ he ex­plains. ‘I thought I’d never write again. I wanted to be­come a chef. I’ve al­ways said there are only three things I do well: I gar­den well, tell sto­ries well, and cook well.’ But he soon found the re­al­ity of the restau­rant busi­ness rather dif­fer­ent to the dream. ‘When we play around in the kitchen, we all think we’re Gor­don Ram­say or Jamie Oliver. Then when you walk into a com­mer­cial kitchen, it’s an­other story. On Sun­days, we’re packed. We have up to 60 peo­ple, and then the kitchen is a war­zone. When it’s 40 de­grees out­side, it’s 45 de­grees in the kitchen be­cause of these big pizza ovens.’

Although happy with his new di­rec­tion, he nev­er­the­less be­gan to miss jour­nal­ism and writ­ing within a cou­ple of years. ‘I think once you’re a jour­nal­ist, you’re a jour­nal­ist for­ever. That’s the case with me, any­way.’

His for­mer col­league and friend, Max du Preez, lives just down the road, and it was Max who urged Jac­ques to start writ­ing again. ‘He kept say­ing, “You must write about the ca­bal be­hind Ja­cob Zuma who are keep­ing him in power and out of prison.” I was think­ing about it when I got a phone call, say­ing, “Lis­ten, I’ve got in­for­ma­tion for you about fraud and cor­rup­tion at the State Se­cu­rity Agency.”’

He com­pares his re­ac­tion to that of a re­ha­bil­i­tated heroin ad­dict who got a sy­ringe­ful of heroin again. ‘I just couldn’t help in­ject­ing my­self. I think that’s how jour­nal­ism is. When I got the op­por­tu­nity to write the book, I just jumped at it. I got the call in De­cem­ber 2016 and within a week, I flew to Moscow to look for the per­son who held the key to the fraud and cor­rup­tion story.’

Of course this kind of work ex­acts a per­sonal toll. ‘I think this is the fourth book I’ve writ­ten since I’ve been with Sam. She says that when I’m writ­ing a book she’s at her loneli­est be­cause I tend to live in my own lit­tle world. And with this one, I was up and down be­tween Cape Town and Jo’burg, then sit­ting in my lit­tle cor­ner, writ­ing… and she was run­ning the show.’

So why did he not sim­ply pass the in­for­ma­tion on to an­other jour­nal­ist? ‘I just thought, “I’m go­ing to go for it,” Jac­ques re­calls. ‘When I went to Moscow, I didn’t know whether it was go­ing to work or not. I man­aged to trace Paul En­gelke, but I didn’t get every­thing I wanted from him. When I came back, I started writ­ing any­way. I went to Gaut­eng to try to find peo­ple in law en­force­ment agen­cies to speak to me, so it took some time be­fore I knew I’d have enough for a book. It was dif­fi­cult, be­cause I knew I had to get the book out in

‘I thought I’d never write again. I wanted to be­come a chef. I’ve al­ways said there are only three things I do well: I gar­den well, tell sto­ries well, and cook well.’

2017 be­fore the ANC Elec­tive Con­fer­ence.’

So he had no anx­i­ety about tak­ing on some­thing this big?

‘No!’ he ex­claims. ‘Lots of peo­ple ask me that. What I was ner­vous about was keep­ing the book a se­cret. So many peo­ple were in­volved, so many knew about it, but we couldn’t let it leak be­cause of what I was go­ing to re­veal. If the law en­force­ment agen­cies, crime in­tel­li­gence, the Hawks, State Se­cu­rity and SARS had found out, they could have taken steps to pre­vent it be­ing published.’ Opp­po­site: Sam and Jac­ques at the en­trance to their home. Above: Chair­man Mao pre­sid­ing over the din­ing area: an orig­i­nal poster of the iconic Chi­nese leader.

‘When I started writ­ing it, Max said I’d be do­ing my na­tional ser­vice all over again,’ he says. ‘I think I’ve done my na­tional ser­vice three times: As a young white man in the eight­ies, I was forced to do it. The sec­ond time was when

Vrye Week­blad ex­posed po­lice death squads. This is the third time. Once I started this, I had to fin­ish. It was as sim­ple as that.’

Has he ever ac­tu­ally met Zuma? ‘A few times. In fact, when we ex­posed the po­lice death squads in Novem­ber 1989, the ANC was still banned and Zuma was in

Lusaka. We worked very closely with ANC in­tel­li­gence to smug­gle Dirk Coet­zee, commander of the death squad at some point, out of the coun­try. When I met Zuma in Harare with Dirk Coet­zee, he called me “the un­guided mis­sile”. Some­body re­minded me the other day that when Vrye Week­blad won the defama­tion case against Gen­eral Lothar Neeth­ling in the High Court, we had a cel­e­bra­tion party in Jan­uary 1992 and Ja­cob Zuma was one of the first to ar­rive. But I haven’t seen him for many years.’

He has re­ceived many death threats since the book came out, but Jac­ques doesn’t pay too much at­ten­tion to them.

‘It’s un­set­tling, but I don’t take it too se­ri­ously; if some­body is se­ri­ous about killing you, he’s not go­ing to warn you about it. I think there are lots of peo­ple out there who would like to get to me. The fact is, I’ve got a restau­rant. The doors are open. Any­one can walk in and here I am. I’m not too con­cerned about the charges the state wants to bring against me ei­ther.’

He finds com­fort, how­ever, in the sup­port he’s re­ceived from the pub­lic since the book’s re­lease.

‘I think the big­gest pro­tec­tion I have is all the pub­lic­ity. They must re­alise that if they ar­rest me, or even if they just charge me and take me to court, we are go­ing to sell an­other 50 000 books, and more peo­ple are go­ing to read about their sins. That’s my pro­tec­tion. I’ve also got a bril­liant team of lawyers who are ready to act, what­ever they do.’

Jac­ques has re­ceived more doc­u­ments leak­ing in­for­ma­tion since his book came out, some of which ap­peared in the Daily Mav­er­ick to­wards the end of last year.

‘When we had our book launch in Pre­to­ria, I was sit­ting at the ta­ble sign­ing books when I saw some­body drop a white plas­tic bag next to me, then walk away. It was state se­cu­rity doc­u­ments. I have no idea who the per­son was. That’s the re­sult of them threat­en­ing to take me to court and ban the book – peo­ple are go­ing to leak more and more in­for­ma­tion.’

Jac­ques’s life has been chaotic since the book’s re­lease – a far cry from the per­fect re­tire­ment he (and Sam) must have imag­ined. But the Riebeek-Kas­teel com­mu­nity is also very sup­port­ive. ‘They all knew I was writ­ing a book. When my lap­top was stolen, every­body was hys­ter­i­cal. That’s the thing about a lit­tle “dor­pie” – the fact that I could get it back within 24 hours.’

An in­tro­vert, Jac­ques hates the pub­lic­ity. ‘I don’t like at­ten­tion. Ev­ery time I went to re­ceive a jour­nal­ism award, I was pissed out of my skull for fear of fac­ing an au­di­ence. Since the book, when I go to the air­port or to Check­ers and that kind of thing, peo­ple stop me, so I can hardly move. And some want to take selfies with me, which is quite fright­en­ing. I don’t like it, but I have to deal with it.’

So what’s next? Will we be see­ing more of Jac­ques Pauw the au­thor, or Jac­ques Pauw the chef?

‘I have to see whether the state is in fact go­ing to charge me. I might spend the next two years in court, fight­ing charges. My life is cur­rently be­ing con­trolled by my pub­li­cist, Jean, who tells me where to go and what to do. I’ll cer­tainly write again be­cause I en­joy it, but I’m not sure what…’

What­ever it is, if mys­te­ri­ous peo­ple are drop­ping off en­velopes stuffed with in­crim­i­nat­ing pa­pers at his feet, we can’t wait to read it!


Jac­ques Pauw at his guest­house in Riebeek-Kas­teel. In the back­ground are urns con­tain­ing the ashes of pets he and his wife Sam have had over the years.

Above Pauw’s Red Tin Roof is housed in a cen­tury-old manor house con­sid­ered one of the grande dames of the val­ley. Coun­try Life called it ‘no or­di­nary restau­rant, bar and guest­house’ and ‘the coolest coun­try spot out­side Cape Town’.

Above Jac­ques with Fiona Sny­ders, who runs the Red Tin Roof kitchen. Op­po­site En­joy­ing a rare re­laxed mo­ment in the bar, which boasts the cou­ple’s eclec­tic art col­lec­tion.

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