Drama over Pauw’s book reads like a Bond novel

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

A STRAT­EGY of sorts is emerg­ing in the State Se­cu­rity Agency’s re­sponse to Jacques Pauw’s ex­plo­sive best-seller, The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers.

It ap­pears the spooks want to wear down the jour­nal­ist and his pub­lisher with bad play.

It’s a tac­tic the sporty types at the Ma­hogany Ridge recog­nise from school rugby: lull the op­po­nent into a false sense of se­cu­rity through sheer use­less­ness: con­tin­u­ally drop the ball, pass it for­ward, knock on and so forth. Then, when it’s least ex­pected, sud­denly score with a mirac­u­lous re­turn to form. Ad­mit­tedly, it didn’t work back then and, alas, it prob­a­bly won’t work now.

The SSA, in its un­wit­ting and per­haps wit­less role as Pauw’s pub­li­cists, has cho­sen to fur­ther boost sales of the book by open­ing a crim­i­nal case against the au­thor for al­legedly dab­bling in clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

This lat­est ac­tion fol­lows a cou­ple of cease and de­sist let­ters to Pauw and his pub­lisher, in which the agency de­manded that cer­tain chunks of the book be ex­cised on the grounds that they’re full of in­ac­cu­ra­cies.

Quite apart from the fact that such ac­tions sug­gest that the al­leged in­ac­cu­ra­cies are, on the con­trary, very much ac­cu­rate, the let­ters have done much to en­sure The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers has be­come the fastest sell­ing book in South Africa since 2004.

Since its re­lease on Oc­to­ber 29, 25 000 copies have been sold in book stores and an­other 50 000 are on back or­der. In­ter­na­tional dig­i­tal sales have been phe­nom­e­nal. When I checked last week­end, it was ranked 21st on Ama­zon’s top 100 Kin­dle chart.

A day later, and fol­low­ing that first, highly pub­li­cised let­ter from the SSA, it shot to 14th place and was jostling for space with heavy­weight nov­el­ists Dan Brown, JK Rowl­ing, John Gr­isham and Lee Child.

As I write, the book has dropped to 46th, but per­haps the agency’s de­ci­sion to open this fool­ish case against Pauw could send it back up the charts. With a bul­let, as they say.

At the mo­ment, the mar­ket is clut­tered with new Ja­cob Zuma books. They in­clude for­mer in­tel­li­gence min­is­ter Ron­nie Kas­rils’s A Sim­ple Man and Adri­aan Bas­son and Pi­eter du Toit’s En­emy of the Peo­ple. No doubt the au­thors are hop­ing the spooks will also be mak­ing a big noise about their in­ac­cu­ra­cies.

It is good, too, that op­po­si­tion MPs are do­ing their bit to en­cour­age lit­er­acy. This week, dur­ing Zuma’s ad­dress to the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces, they bran­dished Pauw’s book as well as Redi Th­labi’s Kh­wezi, the best-sell­ing bi­og­ra­phy of Fezek­ile Kuzwayo, the woman who ac­cused Zuma of rape. Ac­cused Num­ber One has no­ticed. “Peo­ple know they can’t dis­cuss any­thing,” he was quoted as say­ing. “They try not to sleep, read­ing the books, uh-huh, all the lies and spec­u­la­tion and imag­i­na­tion of peo­ple. That’s be­come the pol­i­tics, the pol­i­tics to use here: ‘That is the book, you know! This is the book. Can you say no to this book…’

“Jirre, nov­els! It is peo­ple who sit down and just think and com­po­si­tion of peo­ple (sic).” This, from a man who has threat­ened to think and com­po­si­tion of his own story one day.

But speak­ing of nov­els, it’s been sug­gested – mostly by talk-show hosts – that the ac­counts of fraud, cor­rup­tion, theft and delu­sional be­hav­iour in Pauw’s book are so mind-bog­gling that they are way be­yond the realm of fic­tion.

This is non­sense, of course, and it could be that talk-show hosts are un­fa­mil­iar with Ian Flem­ing’s nov­els and their film adap­ta­tions. The time has come, maybe, for fur­ther adap­ta­tion to suit do­mes­tic au­di­ences.

What about To Rus­sia With Love? Here a down­graded Bond – now agent 0.7% to re­flect the growth rate – trails En­ergy Min­is­ter David Mahlobo, dis­guised as a ma­tryoshka doll, as he makes his way from the flesh­pots of Mpumalanga to Moscow with a sealed nu­clear deal.

Who re­mem­bers the re­volv­ing num­ber plates of the As­ton Mar­tin DB5 in Goldfin­ger? Well, in the re­boot, Guptafin­ger, they don’t change num­ber plates, they just change cars. In the se­cret lair of his par­al­lel uni­verse spy net­work, SSA di­rec­tor-gen­eral Arthur Fraser has about 280 dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles to choose from.

The on-and-off-and-maybe-on-again af­fair be­tween for­mer Sars group ex­ec­u­tive Jo­hann van Log­geren­berg and at­tor­ney Belinda Wal­ter is de­tailed in The Spy Who Loved Me Twice.

And com­ing soon: Nkandla Royale, Lie An­other Day, Zup­ta­pussy, On Sax­on­wold’s Se­cret Ser­vice, Rand­fall…

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.