The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
Bestselling author Jacques Pauw received the perfect gift just days after the launch of Our Poisoned Land, when EFF leader Julius Malema demanded its removal from the shelves. The ensuing publicity turbocharged sales, sending the title to the top of SA’s bestseller list, six times above that of its nearest competitor. In this interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, Pauw talks about the book, some of those implicated by it, the “hugely disappointing” Cyril Ramaphosa, investigative journalism and his 2017 blockbuster, The President’s Keepers, which sold over 200 000 copies – more than any other locally produced book.
Jacques Pauw on whether his book changed South Africa
You know, some people give the book credit for the demise of Jacob Zuma. I don’t agree. I think it was only one of a couple of books at the time that put Zuma in a corner. It was also because of civic society. It was because of the public protector. So I think it contributed but to call it the book that changed South Africa – I don’t think that’s quite correct.
On how his book ‘The Presidents’ Keeper was received
Yes, we wanted to bring it out just before the initiative conference, basically, because all the attention was then on the battle between Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma. So I just planned to come out at that time of the year. What we didn’t plan, something we couldn’t foresee, was the fact that Zuma’s high chief would try to ban the book, that the Revenue Service Commission commissioner Tom Moyane would take steps against me. And of course, you know, I’ve had fantastic publicists in my life, but I’ve never had a publicist like Arthur Fraser. He literally sold thousands of books. So I always say to people, I didn’t sell that many copies because the book is so good. I sold that many copies because I had Arthur Fraser as a publicist with this book. We didn’t plan to bring it out. Now, you know, when I published the book, cigarette manufacturer Adriano Mazzotti accused me of once again playing a political game and bringing it out. Now, we actually plan to publish this book in May. But then because of the constant requests by Chief Justice Zondo to postpone his final reports, the book only came out in November. It was supposed to have come out in May, but we had to wait for the final report of the state capture commission.
On why he decided to become an investigative journalist amidst all its associated pressures
I think it’s basically that. Injustices really make me angry. As a human being. And investigative journalism is usually about an injustice. It’s about fraud, it’s about corruption. And very often, especially in this country, an injustice against the poor. There’s a section in my book that deals with Prasa, the passenger rail agency in South Africa, and how the Hawks, number one, messed up the case. And number two, how the looters of Prasa are living highlights. Absolutely nothing has happened to them. I was very much driven then because when I wrote this book I decided I had to take one state-owned company and explore that. I couldn’t take Eskom and Transnet and I had to choose one. And I chose Prasa because this was supposed to be billions of rands that was supposed to have reinvigorated our rail system. It had to, you know, it had to bring transport to poorer people. It had to be safe. It had to be cheap. It had to transport them between their places of work and home. And the money was simply stolen. Blatantly stolen – a series of contracts that were unlawfully dished out to friends by Lucky Montana and SIFISO Buthelezi. These people are living a high life. Well, the poorest of the poor are still struggling with transport. And it really infuriated me and it really drove me to find out more and look at who in the Hawks did the investigation. Why is it so messed up? What happened at Prasa? So I’m very much driven by injustices, you know, as I think many journalists are, and journalists should be driven by injustices.
On his frustration towards Ramaphosa’s lack of enforcing accountability
Absolutely. The betrayal by Cyril Ramaphosa is incredible. I was one of those when he was elected as ANC president in December 2017. I really thought that there was a good chance that there was going to be a new dawn. And he did very well in the first year of his presidency. When you replay, he got rid of people – like Sean Abrams left. He got rid of Fraser, although he sent him to Correctional Services. He fired Moyane, he fired Jeeva, he fired Mugabe. He set up the Source Commission. The Zondo Commission was about to start hearing its evidence. He did very well in the first year of his presidency and then ultimately he put the welfare of the party before the welfare of the people, and that’s when things started going wrong. The fact that he kept Bheki Cele as the his minister of police – only for one reason: Bheki Cele is his main support in KwaZulu Natal and is very important to him. We have a police minister that completely failed as the commissioner of police and was fired by Jacob Zuma in 2012. He’s now the Minister of police. He has no moral authority to be the minister respects Cyril Ramaphosa, keeps him, the same with Gwede Mantashe, who’s the chairperson of the ANC. He’s still our Minister of Energy and several others, and that is where Ramaphosa has so terribly failed us. It is utterly frustrating to think that Arthur Fraser is still walking around as a free man. No other civil servant in this country has been investigated more times than Arthur Fraser. There was an investigation within the SSA against the Inspector General of intelligence who investigated him, the Mufamadi panel investigated him and the state capture commission investigated him and they all came to the same conclusion: that this man has to answer to a host of allegations concerning corruption, fraud and money wastage. And he’s walking around all of that. If I think about the duties of Prasa, if I think about a man like Maximo Mashaba, the businessman who scored hundreds of hundreds of millions of rands out of Prasa, he is so arrogant that he for example, he purchased the five star lodge in the Limpopo Province, an award winning five star lodge, and he named it after himself AM Lodge. We now have an AM boutique hotel in Pretoria. There’s an AM lodge in KwaZulu-Natal. The pure arrogance of these people, because nothing has happened to them. The hawks had the evidence around Prasa already in 2015, it’s now seven years later. Nothing has happened. It’s utterly frustrating.
On his prospects for the 2024 elections
Absolutely. We have to look at 2024. 2024 might also see the rise of Julius Malema. If the EFF becomes a kingmaker after a general election and the ANC fails to secure their 50 plus 1%, which is going to introduce another dimension in South Africa, because there’s little evidence. There is enough evidence that Julius Malema wants to be the president of this country. He said it himself, he is power hungry and this might give him an opportunity to enter government, maybe become a senior, the senior minister, who knows the deputy president. We are going to face other challenges if we have a coalition government. But one thing is for certain, we cannot continue with an ANC government like we have at the moment. People are getting poorer. The crime rate is through the roof and employment is rising. And there just doesn’t seem to be any way out of this.
- Paul O’Sullivan: Cyril had the facts on allegedly corrupt “very high risk” Police Chief Masemola before appointing him.
- FF+’s Mulder explains why ‘Rainbow Coalition’ can and will beat ANC/EFF in 2024
- Dr Frans Cronje: Don’t rule out ANC/DA Parliamentary coalition after 2024 Election
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.