SAFTU condemns attempts to censor The President’s Keepers

The South African Federation of Trade Unions strongly condemns the attempts by the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the State Security Agency (SSA) to force Jacques Pauw , his publishers and booksellers, to withdraw his book, The President’s Keepers, from sale or to take legal action to force him to retract certain parts of his book which they have labelled as “lies”.

Pauw has said that he stands by his book, that his information is credible and that he’s not broken any law. Exclusive Books is standing behind him and says it will continue to sell his book, sales of which so far are “unimaginable”.

To use legal means to censor the book would be a serious assault on the right to free speech, all the more so since the book raises serious allegations against President Jacob Zuma relating to corruption and irregularities with his tax affairs. SAFTU believes these allegations are an important contribution to the national debate on ‘state capture’, corruption and other crimes and they must not be suppressed.

Those accused have the right to contest the allegations but not to censor them. The only way to establish whether the allegations are lies or true is to hold the public inquiry into ‘state capture’ called for by the former Public Protector, which so far the President has refused to set up.

The federation demands that this public inquiry be set up as quickly as possible, so that there can be a thorough discussion of all allegations, not only Pauw’s, but the Guptaleaks emails, allegations about Eskom, Trillian, KPMG, Bell Pottinger, McKinsey, SAP, Peter Hain’s revelations about HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank and any others which people should be encouraged to submit.

South Africa has been plunged into an economic catastrophe and it has been made far worse by the flood of charges that senior government leaders, private business people, executives of state-owned industries and their cronies and family members have been involved in wide-scale bribery and corruption, tender manipulation, money-laundering and fraud.

The allegations are so serious for the country as a whole that they cannot be silenced by legal manoeuvres. The public inquiry should be the vital first step in getting to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Those charged will have the same right as anyone else to dispute the allegations.

After the inquiry hands down its report, the law must then take its course, and, based on its findings, the Hawks and NPA must then prosecute those against who there is evidence of criminal acts.

In court the accused will again have every right to dispute the charges but they must not be allowed to avoid them by legal attempts to pre-judge the allegations and delay setting up the inquiry.

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