News / Opinion / Columns

Sydney Majoko
3 minute read
7 Nov 2017
6:01 am

Sue author Jacques Pauw if you dare

Sydney Majoko

In their rush to try to censor Jacques Pauw’s new book, the president’s keepers have inadvertently created a bestseller.

The President's Keepers by Jacques Pauw.

In 1963, the apartheid literary police banned the first book ever in South Africa: An Act of Immorality by one “Des Troy”. Before their attempt at banning the book, no fiction book had ever sold more than 15 000 copies in this country.

In 2016, doctoral student Rosa Lyster reported that the book then went on to sell 40 000 copies, breaking the previous record by 25 000. The apartheid state’s flimsy attempt at censoring the author, who had published it under a pseudonym, backfired.

Did the book contain state secrets? Was it worth the honour of being the first book banned in apartheid South Africa? Lyster didn’t think so. In fact, she says: “I didn’t anticipate how bad it actually was. Fifty years later Jacob Zuma’s administration has just succeeded in catapulting a book that exposes their worst excesses into the national limelight.”

Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers – Those Keeping Jacob Zuma in Power And Out Of Jail, is far from being the literary failure that An Act Of Immorality was. Pauw is a brilliantly gifted storyteller and he has taken the complex maze of state capture and told it in an intriguing and captivating manner.

But Tom Moyane at Sars and the spooks at the State Security Agency are not impressed with Pauw’s literary prowess. They are screaming so loud about how the retired investigative journalist has violated the president’s right to privacy over alleged nonpayment of taxes for the first five years of his presidency.

A cease and desist letter has apparently been shot off to Pauw, his publishers and distributors to pull the book from the shelves.

What they do not seem to realise is that trying to ban anything in 2017 is a totally different ballgame to what the apartheid literary police faced in 1963. Even then – without Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter – they failed to contain the distribution of a badly written but physically printed piece of material. How will censoring an author in 2017 be effective?

The best way to expose Pauw as an enemy of the Zuma administration is to take up his challenge that all the facts he alleges in the book can be backed up.

Instead of trying to stop a sieve from leaking water, Moyane and the alleged president’s keepers have the money and access to the courts to expose Pauw’s alleged breaches of the laws he has broken to get the book published.

In fact, this is one case in which the president and those keeping him in power can even go running to the public protector, who was one of the first to take to Twitter to implore people not to buy the book.

Yes, Pauw is not a state institution but surely the president can find a way to persuade Busisiwe Mkhwebane to take up something worthwhile and investigate what has been allegedly done to the public purse by the president and his family.

The truth is Pauw’s book is very unlikely to be challenged in an open court of law. Yes, the intimidatory tactics of sending legal letters and such will be employed, but none of those tactics will be allowed to go far enough to test the veracity of the very damning allegations contained in the book.

And because they rushed to try to censor him, they have inadvertently created a bestseller out of a book outlining their shenanigans.

Sydney Majoko.

Sydney Majoko.

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