Saturday, December 16, 2017


Dear Jacques,

          Congratulations on your brilliant coup. There can’t be many expose` stories that have got into book form based on the words of so many people who readers will never be able to identify.
          I was surprised that after South Africa’s biggest newspaper “sources” scandal you were still able to find a publisher to take you on because your book is absolutely littered with them.
          Hardly a page goes by in your 328 page The President’s Keepers without one of your anonymous “sources"popping up with some startling revelation or other. Alright, not all of them are that startling because they have already appeared in print elsewhere. But for those who don’t know, it makes for a riveting read.
          Your co-author Google must have been a great help because I see that slotted in between your firsthand interviews with your “sources” you have lifted the work of numerous other scribes. They evidently beat you to it by digging up the dirt on many of the characters in your book while you were sidetracked cooking for your restaurant and looking after guests at your guesthouse in Riebeek-Kasteel, wherever that is.
          You even listed them and told us “I have relied heavily on the published works of some of the country’s most distinguished journalists.” Not a bad way to start.
          Three not so distinguished ones got a terribly tongue lashing. They were involved in those disgraceful Sunday Times South African Revenue Service(SARS) “rogue unit” lies, which resulted in a whole page retraction that must have been some kind of record. You accused Piet Rampedi, Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Africa of “helping Zuma’s keepers to destroy the finest law enforcement institution in the country.” I gather you were referring to SARS, which up to that stage had been doing a first class job.
Pauw's three unwise men - Hofstatter, Rampedi & Wa Africa
You added that they “contributing greatly to ending the careers of dedicated civil servants,” which enabled the much maligned current SARS boss Tom Moyane to “break the tax collector.” And it was “a burden they will carry for a long time.”
In that Sunday Times apology the new Editor Bongani Siqoko wrote that one of the reasons why they got their stories so wrong was that “we overly relied on our sources.” Evidently this was too close to the bone for you because your version left out the reference to “sources.”
Your book told us merely that he told his readers that “today we admit to you that we got some things wrong.”
If the sins you credited those journos with were correct I would have expected their newspaper careers to be over, at the very least on the Sunday Times or any of the publications in the same group. 
Rampedi joined a rival paper the Sunday Independent as its senior investigative reporter. Wa Africa is still doing investigations on the Sunday Times and Hofstatter is playing a similar role on the Business Day and the Financial Mail, which like the Sunday Times are owned by the Tiso Blackstar Group (formerly Times Media).
Is it that you were not believed or that a very weak line was taken by the employers of these reporters, who were kept on or taken on in much the same way as our Government departments do with their bad eggs? Ironically these publications would no doubt be quick to castigate our rulers for the same sort of thing.
I see that when you joined Eusebius McKaiser on Radio 702 to discuss your book Hofstatter was also there and the controversial subject of “sources” came up again. You attacked him for his poor reporting on the “rogue unit” story. He retorted with the lame excuses that he was not the lead reporter on the expose` and he did not have time to check his “sources.”
In case anybody thought that the investigations of all those writers you listed were all you relied upon, you assured us that the “vast bulk of my information” came from officials and the like who spoke to you “on condition of anonymity.” Like all good journalists you told us that they will forever “remain anonymous.” You said you “honour their courage for putting their jobs on the line by divulging the dirty secrets of Jacobs Zuma’s keepers to me.”
          What’s courageous about hiding behind a “sources” shield?  How could they possibly have put their jobs on the line if nobody knew who they were?
          It wasn’t by any chance a member of your “sources” team in the State Security Agency who started that huge promotion ball rolling by announcing that they would have your guts for garters, as they used to say when I was at school, if you and your publisher Tafelberg didn’t withdraw the book immediately?
          Let’s face it you can’t buy that kind of publicity.
          They seem to have been a bit slow in following through with their threats. I suppose it takes time to trace all those “sources” of yours.
          It would be great if you could let us into the secret as to what you plan to do if the Government or one of the many rogues you have maligned eventually decides to go to court.
          By relying on so many “sources,” whose identity you say you will never reveal, aren’t you inviting a defamation action against you and your publisher? The enemies you made will surely be saying to themselves: “He can’t have any other more substantial evidence against us if he is relying on so many anonymous people, otherwise he would have produced it without resorting to them.”
          Another problem you have is that hearsay evidence is not allowed in our courts.
          If the worst comes to the worst will you be telling a judge that your “sources” that you need to prove the truth of your allegations have either died, emigrated or are too ill to attending the hearing.          
          Whatever you do they are going to take some explaining unless you can persuade them to come into the open. Nobody, as far as I know, has yet managed to win a court case with faceless witnesses.         
          While you are waiting to see what happens how about this for an idea.
          As you have clearly made a fortune out of Zuma why not reward all those loyal “sources” of yours by inviting them to a really posh New Year’s Eve shindig where they won’t have to worry about being recognised because it will be - a masked ball.
          Best of luck,
          Jon, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman

P.S. Jacques I’m sorry I can’t reveal what my “sources” have told me.  I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

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