Spooks versus Pauw circus
A S Jacques Pauw has recently made clear — and he is by no means the first journalist to furnish punters with this information — the intelligence community is devoted less to the protection of the nation’s interests than it is to ringfencing President Jacob Zuma’s cabal.
The State Security Agency’s activities have been both criminal and treasonous — what with cigarette smuggling scams and the wholesale dismantling of the SA Revenue Service. As with most of the critical institutions that form the ligature of the state, the SSA has been captured by Zuma’s cronies who are trying to hide the fact that he is an (impeachable) tax cheat. And so their attempts to block the book — already widely distributed in hard copy and PDF samizdat form — are perhaps not the best way to expend the agency’s (admittedly unlimited) legal resources.
Why is this happening? There’s a convincing argument to be made that the SSA has an illicit stake in book publishing, and that drumming up interest in Pauw’s book will result in millions in offmarket bookselling cash.
If only that was the case. But there is little upside to the book business, unless you have a smash hit like Pauw’s. And Media24, which owns the Tafelberg imprint under which The President’s Keep
ers is published, is now having a fabulous year. You simply cannot buy publicity like this. The spooks want this thing banned? I’ll take 12! (This was the argument made by Benjamin Trisk, Exclusive Books’ CEO, at the book launch.)
The book’s revelations, however, are no joke: they present a welloiled operation devoted to sustaining Zuma’s looting machine. The geniuses protecting us from, say, Russians incursions into state affairs, have instead sent two cease and desist letters to Pauw and the publishers, saying that the book is replete with inaccuracies, AKA accuracies. Charges were laid in Pretoria last week. “The charges relate to the contravention of certain sections of the Intelligence Services Act. The normal cause [sic] of investigation will follow and the matter will then be debated in court,” said SSA spokesperson Brian Dube. SARS, under Zuma lackey Tom Moyane, will likely follow suit. (He has a starring role in the book.)
According to the Hawks spokeshack Hangwani Mulaudzi: “Our serious organised crime unit is now investigating those allegations and no charges, or no person has been fingered in this investigation.” Was Mulaudzi finally suggesting that the Hawks are going to take statecapture revelations seriously? Um, not quite. He was entirely focused on the book itself, rather than its contents.
“This is in reference to the National Strategic Intelligence Act. The act stipulates clearly that no person is allowed to disclose, divulge [or] leak classified information,” he said.
But this, sadly, is not the case. As Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said, the SSA is going after Pauw on Section 26(1)(f)(i) of the Intelligence Services Act, which prohibits a former agent “from disclosing classified information to anyone else [unless permission is granted]”. But Pauw is not a former SSA agent. “Furthermore, section 27(1) of the act prohibits a former member [but not a journalist like Pauw] from disclosing certain information about his work at the SSA to anyone else,” said De Vos.
There is nothing the SSA can stand on — no point of law, no statute. It has no case. It is exercising what it would consider its power to intimidate, but as the state wanes, so does its influence over its subjects. It is a waste of time.
The intention is to kill the impulse of the next publisher or journalist who endeavours to prove the president a common tax cheat. This year has been a rich one for SA nonfiction, and to ban a book that doesn’t contravene hate speech, libel laws or the Intelligence Services Act, is to ban all of the books that have detailed the failing of the state: Redi Tlhabi’s Khwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, Sisonke Msimang’s Always Another Country, Pumla Dineo Gqola’s Reflecting Rogue: Inside the Mind of a Feminist.
Ban one book, you ban them all: this is an inviolable lesson of history. More to the point, you deem one book more incendiary than the next, while the trio of subtly if genuinely subversive books mentioned above are far more damaging to the state than The President’s Keepers could ever be. And yet, the SSA bumbles on. It’ll fail, of course, gumming up the courts and burning more taxpayers’ money in service of keeping Zuma out of jail. It’s hilarious, no question. Sadly, however, the laugh is on us. — Biznews.