Bookseller insists he has a right to sell despite security threats
By John Eche
South Africans are rushing to the shops to get copies of a controversial new book, The President’s Keepers, after agents of the State Security Services made it clear that all released copies must be taken off the shelves.
Analysts say that in the book, the author, Jacques Pauw clearly feeds on the many months of revulsion over the conduct of incumbent president Jacob Zuma since he assumed office as president.
While the author is remaining defiant that he has written what he has written and that he would not be intimidated by SARS and the State Security Agency, SSA, the SSA is insisting that the book must be recalled.
Meanwhile, the Johannesburg-based retailer, Exclusive Books, has joined in the fray, saying that it believes it is within its rights as a bookseller to keep Jacques Pauw’s controversial book about President Jacob Zuma on its shelves.
Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers, exposes alleged shady dealings by Zuma, including tax violations, and has prompted the State Security Agency to send a cease and desist letter to Pauw and his publishers, NB Publishers.
Exclusive Books CEO Benjamin Trisk said in a statement, Friday afternoon that as South Africa’s leading bookseller, the group would continue to stand behind Pauw and his book.
“Part of our task is to sell books that demonstrate and put forward different arguments about matters of importance to the South African public,” Trisk said.
“We believe that The President’s Keepers is just such a book,” he said. Exclusive Books indicated on Twitter that its online bookstore had sold all its copies of The President’s Keepers, and was expecting more stock to arrive on Monday.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) said on Friday that it was considering taking criminal and civil action against Pauw’s book, which was released on Monday.
This was followed by the State Security Agency (SSA), which demanded that the book be recalled and retract certain parts.
Corruption Watch has also weighed in on the debate, saying on Friday afternoon that it condemned the threats made by SARS and the SSA.
“Corruption Watch condemns these actions as those of highly compromised and captured state institutions intent on protecting the president,” it said in a statement.
“Corruption Watch fully supports the critical role played by investigative journalists in exposing and combating corruption, which it sees as the major threat to the security of the South African state.”
The organisation said SARS and the SSA’s attempts to “clamp down on freedom of speech” suggested both parties were prepared to go to great lengths to ensure that Zuma continued to act with impunity and was not held accountable.
“The organisation calls upon the author and his publisher to stand firm in the full knowledge that they enjoy the support of the vast majority of South Africans who labour under the yoke of corruption,” it said.
Interestingly, the controversy is taking place only days to the December Leadership Cnference of the ruling ANC where a critical vote would be taken on Zuma’s successor as leader of the party and candidate in the 2019 polls. Polity watchers say that given the avalanche of scandals that he has contended with this far, it is very likely that Zuma will face prosecution as soon as he exits the Presidency; one more reason why he needs a ‘friendly successor.’
Even as the controversy over the new book builds, Sourh Africans are also engaged in commentary of the light and serious type over it on social media as this example which the reporter captured on twitter:
Lol State Security Agency has said this book must be recalled.This book has too many about Zuma which are damming.i must get my copy