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Jacques Pauw preparing for any eventuality after SSA opens case

The State Security Agency confirmed on Thursday that an investigation is underway into the possible leaking of classified information in the book.

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw at the official presentation of his latest book 'The President's Keepers' in Johannesburg on 8 November 2017. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw says he’s meeting his legal team on Friday to prepare for any eventuality following confirmation of a Hawks investigation related to his book The President’s Keepers.

The State Security Agency confirmed on Thursday that an investigation is underway into the possible leaking of classified information in the book.

It contains serious allegations against South African Revenue Service (Sars) and claims that President Jacob Zuma is a tax evader.

The second leg of the launch of Pauw’s book went ahead without incident on Thursday night in Pretoria.

Pauw says that no charge has been laid against him despite State Security Agency stating the contrary.

“Despite what the State Security Agency said that they laid a charge against me, the Hawks said no it’s not a charge, it’s only a complaint.”

He says that a move to charge him under the Intelligence Services Act will just prove the book's contents to be true.

Pauw laughed off the SSA’s threats to charge him, saying that they were idiocy.

Meanwhile, the State Security Agency says it’s still exploring its options over whether to proceed with a court interdict to take Pauw’s book off the shelves.

The agency has opened criminal cases against the author and the book's publisher.

The Hawks are investigating a possible leak of classified information but no one has been charged at this stage.

The State Security Agency’s Brian Dube says: "The agency is considering a number of legal options available to it, so that will be determined as time goes."

Speaking at the launch of the book at a Pretoria mall on Thursday, former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan lauded Pauw, saying that South Africa needs more people like him to help tackle corruption.

WATCH: Pauw to Zuma: Stop hiding behind laws to hide crime

PUBLIC INTEREST

The investigative journalist may be able to argue a case of public interest if charges are laid against him in relation to the contents of his book.

The State Security Agency says certain parts of the book contravene the Intelligence Services Act and on Wednesday it opened a case at the Lyttelton Police Station in Pretoria.

Law Professor James Grant said Pauw may incur liability if he assisted a former agent in disclosing confidential information.

“To be technically correct, I think that he might incur liability as an accomplice. However, as many have raised, there is the constitutional issue of the fact that Pauw is probably and utterly within his rights to freedom of expression.”

After Wednesday’s dramatic power cut in Johannesburg and threats on Pauw’s life, at least 10 security personnel were seen standing guard ahead of Thursday evening’s launch at the Brooklyn Mall.

Exclusive Books said its asked mall managers to ensure that their generators are working.

Pauw said he is going to meet his legal team on Friday to prepare, in case he finds himself in handcuffs.

“We’re consulting with senior counsel tomorrow and we’ll prepare an application for bail should I be arrested. So, we don’t know, anything can happen.”

Meanwhile, the South African National Editors’ Forum says its outraged by steps taken by the Hawks on Pauw.

Sanef's Adriaan Basson said the organisation is fully behind Pauw's work.

“Although he did not produce his work in a newspaper or an online publication, we will support him as far as we could because we do regard him as one of our journalists.”

At the same time, Zuma himself has taken a swipe at those supporting the contents of the book.

He was responding to the debate on his annual address to the National Council of Provinces this evening.

“The new tendency of carrying books that are written by people who are speculating, [based on] rumours [and] allegations and they actually believe they are tested fact. Why they do so? Because they have nothing to say. So, they’ve got to be mimicking authors who’ve written some books. This country is faced with a big challenge. What do you do with such opposition parties, really?”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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