Monday, November 28, 2011

More journos face Mac’s wrath

More journos face Mac’s wrath
November 28 2011 at 07:41am
By Deon de Lange



President Jacob Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj. Photo: Sizwe Ndingane

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Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj is weighing legal action against more journalists after several newspapers published – or republished – information on Sunday from an investigation into allegations that he received secret payments from a company awarded multimillion-rand contracts by the Department of Transport while he headed it.

Maharaj has asked the police to investigate how two Mail & Guardian (M&G) journalists came into possession of confidential testimony he gave to the now-defunct Scorpions during a Section 28 arms deal inquiry in 2003.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act says it is an offence – punishable by up to 15 years in prison – for information obtained from such a probe to be published without the permission of the national director of public prosecutions.

The Scorpions investigation was halted in 2008 or 2009 and no charges were brought against Maharaj.

The M&G blacked out most of its front page lead story two weeks ago after Maharaj threatened legal action.

Despite this, Maharaj filed a criminal complaint against the paper and its journalists, prompting M&G editor Nick Dawes to publish the information on Friday.

Dawes argued there was an “overwhelming public interest” in the story, that the investigation meant to be protected by confidentiality had long since been abandoned, and that the information was “already in the public domain”.

The M&G also noted that Maharaj had provided his biographer, Padraig O’Malley, with transcripts of his interviews with the Scorpions as far back as 2005.

Maharaj referred enquiries on Sunday to his attorney, Rudi Krause at BDK Attorneys.

Krause said the fact that much of the Maharaj testimony was in the public domain “doesn’t change anything”.

“I have not consulted (Maharaj) yet… but it would seem the publication of excerpts from these records is a violation of (the NPA Act). So we will consult (counsel) and take action.”

The latest clash about state secrets comes after the passage of the “Secrecy Bill” through the National Assembly last week.

Opponents are pressing for the inclusion of a “public interest defence” clause to protect those revealing secrets from legal sanction. - Political Bureau

Anonymous, wrote

08:10am on 28 November 2011
My question is why not Zuma acting on this issue. Zuma only says he is acting against corruption , but when evidence is placed right in front of him , he trys every bit to make sure he can create a scape goat for the criminal. That is why Zuma should have never been president. He should be there by the people for the people , not by the people for criminals.This is state theft.

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