Law­suits have not been heard

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION -

THERE is a vast dif­fer­ence be­tween threats to do some­thing or milder state­ments of in­tent to do so, and ac­tu­ally giv­ing ef­fect to th­ese dec­la­ra­tions. We re­cently had a re­minder and il­lus­tra­tion of this ob­ser­va­tion: Oc­to­ber 29 was the first an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of an ex­plo­sive book, The Pres­i­dent’s Keep­ers, by in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Jac­ques Pauw.

It amounted to a de­tailed, seem­ingly never-end­ing in­dict­ment of skul­dug­gery in the Zuma years, nam­ing al­leged state cap­ture cul­prits and vividly de­scrib­ing things done.

Pauw’s cat­a­logue of wrong­do­ing of­fered mul­ti­ple grounds for nu­mer­ous dam­ages claims from the named in­di­vid­u­als – if it was in­ac­cu­rate in any way. And there were such mum­blings. Yet, a year later, we have heard lit­tle of law­suits.

Other ac­tions against him by the state have so far also come to nought. The ab­sence of per­sonal law­suits prob­a­bly speaks to the ve­rac­ity of his book, or the sober­ing re­al­i­sa­tion among his ag­grieved sub­jects that they might them­selves have to ap­pear in court and un­dergo cross-ex­am­i­na­tion in lit­i­ga­tion.

Had Pauw dis­closed all he knew? Could he pro­duce more dirt against them in court? Could he hold up con­clu­sive doc­u­ments? Ex­actly how much did he know? Most would-be lit­i­gants have to con­front the un­com­fort­able prospect of cros­sex­am­i­na­tion in court. It may prove de­ci­sive in their con­sid­er­a­tions.

Such thoughts may have struck the more than 50 peo­ple pro­vi­sion­ally in­dicted in an as­ton­ish­ing re­port on the plun­der of VBS Mu­tual Bank, ti­tled “The Great Bank Heist”. The ti­tle, rem­i­nis­cent of for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s catchy names for her re­ports, suc­cinctly de­scribed what its au­thor, advocate Terry Mo­tau, was to re­late. His re­port ig­nited sev­eral an­gry ex­pres­sions of in­tent against him, and cries of in­jus­tice.

The courts will de­cide – if those threats come to any­thing. If Mo­tau erred in any of his find­ings, or the way he went about his in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­port, he should be called to ac­count and the in­dicted per­son should be de­clared in­no­cent, just as loudly. But talk­ing re­course, and protest­ing blame­less­ness in the news me­dia, is no ex­on­er­a­tion. Merely play­ing to the court of pub­lic opin­ion, what might amount to bluff, is no ab­so­lu­tion.

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