Reports that criminal charges have been laid against journalist Jacques Pauw following the publication of his book, The President’s Keepers, are deeply concerning, said PEN South Africa, PEN Afrikaans and PEN International.
The President’s Keepers, released on 29 October, exposes allegations of wide-scale corruption, fraud and financial mismanagement under the rule of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.
In a cease and desist letter dated 1 November, South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) threatened legal action against the author and publisher should they refuse to withdraw the book from the market. Gauteng provincial police spokesman Col. Lungelo Dlamini has confirmed on 9 November that charges have been laid, though it is unclear at this stage on what grounds. According to a press release issued by NB Publishers, the police have not been able to confirm the nature of the charges as their systems were down, but stated that there were two separate complainants.
Willem de Klerk, the lawyer for both Pauw and NB Publishers, said that it was illogical for the SSA to demand the withdrawal of the book, which has already been widely circulated. “It is further unclear how you reconcile an allegation of falsity, on the one hand, with an alleged violation of statutory provisions on the other,” De Klerk said in a letter sent to the SSA.
It has also emerged that the author is receiving death threats from anonymous callers.
The conduct of the state in making statements that charges have been laid against a writer without giving any details of what the charges are and what gives rise to them, is also concerning.
PEN South Africa, PEN Afrikaans and PEN International view these acts in an extremely serious light. The organisations strongly condemn these attempts at censorship and intimidation aimed at silencing the critical voice of an internationally reputable investigative journalist.
For more information, please contact Lianna Merner, PEN International’s Africa Programme Coordinator on +442074050338 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Catrina Wessels, Manager: PEN Afrikaans, at email@example.com or Khanya Mncwabe, Coordinator: PEN South Africa, at firstname.lastname@example.org.