Jacques Pauw’s ‘Our Poisoned Land’ not a book ‘that’s full of hope’
Pauw says that the chapter on Mazzotti provides a 'classical example' of what happens when the criminal justice fails.
Author Jacques Pauw with his book, Our Poisoned Land launched at a private function in Johannesburg, 16 November 2022. Picture; Nigel Sibanda
The hardest part of writing the controversial and much anticipated sequel to the bestselling The President’s Keepers is not the legal threats, but the unpredictable and ever-evolving storyline from the current affairs book.
Investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw on Thursday launched his latest book, Our Poisoned Land, which delves into top police officers who allegedly had a hand in state capture and are still settled in the Hawks and police’s Crime Intelligence and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) relationship with controversial businessman and tobacco trader, Adriano Mazzotti.
Sitting down with political analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela for his virtual launch, Pauw said what was extremely difficult about a current affairs book in this country was that everything changes quickly.
“You know in the end I’ve probably written 500,000 words of which I don’t know how many got published, and even then, we just threw articles out that came through our chapters which just became too old and too irrelevant.”
Cele a ‘major’ character
Pauw told Mkhabela that the book was initially supposed to be released around May, but it was, however, delayed a couple of times while they waited for the State Capture Commission to file reports which were also postponed time and time again. Pauw was forced to quickly adjust as a result.
“With the book, you ask yourself every day; is [Police Minister] Bheki Cele, who is a major character in this book, going to survive?”
“You even get to a point where you don’t want Bheki Cele to get fired because it’s going to mess up your book,” Pauw said.
Without giving much away, the author noted how one chapter of the book details the EFF leader Julius Malema’s relationship with controversial businessman Adriano Mazzotti.
“Part of the reason why I included Mazzotti, if you read a chapter before you get to the juicy part about the parties, if you read the chapter, there’s a classical example of what happens when the criminal justice system fails,” he added.
However, due to this, Malema’s legal team submitted a lawyer’s letter to Pauw and NB Publishers in an attempt to ban sales of the new book.
The letter also stated that they want a full apology as well as a retraction of the book itself, further accusing the publishers of distributing “untrue and defamatory” content.
“We demand the immediate withdrawal of ‘Our Poisoned Land’. Both Mr Jacques Pauw and NB Publishers must unconditionally apologise to Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and the EFF as a whole, for their untrue and defamatory allegations,” the letter reads.
‘Our Poisoned Land’ not full of hope
When asked why he did not title this book Into the Heart of Darkness 2 or The President’s Keepers 2, Pauw explained that in the two years it took him to write the book, he did not have a title for the first 20 months, but he eventually circled back to Our Poisoned Land.
“Because I think that society and the country we live in has been so poisoned by bad politics and bad decisions, that it would probably take decades for us to recover,” he said.
“You know I did not set out to write such a negative book. It’s not a book that’s full of hope. I mean, people have asked me what needs to be done now for us to recover and I’m not sure.”
“I think the sadness is that when Cyril Ramaphosa came into power in February 2018 or when he won the ANC elective conference in December 2017, we were all full of hope and thought things were going to happen and he did quite well then… And there were a lot of changes.”
“I never planned to write a follow up for The President’s Keepers, because people tend to say when you’re a film maker and have made a film like Jaws, don’t try to make Jaws 2 because you’ll mess it up, but I needed to dig deeper because nothing was done even after the first book.”