Spooks ver­sus Pauw cir­cus

The Witness - - OPINION - Richard Po­plak • Biznews.com was founded and is edited by Alec Hogg. Twit­ter @ale­chogg and @biznews.com

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.

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