Johannesburg – “Once our government starts ‘banning’ books and acting against authors, we are on a slippery, apartheid-style slope” – one that is also tantamount to “full-blown censorship, the suppression of freedom of expression, and the violation of our Constitution,” a statement by SaveSA reads.
SaveSA’s statement follows announcements by the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the State Security Agency (SSA) that it was considering legal action against investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw over his newly released book, The President’s Keepers.
Pauw’s book, which was released this week, contains explosive details, including that Zuma had received monthly payments of R1 million from Roy Moodley and that his tax affairs weren’t in order.
SARS indicated on Friday that it was considering legal steps against Pauw, while the SSA sent a cease and desist letter to Pauw and his publishers, NB Publishers.
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On Friday, SaveSA said both the SSA and SARS had other options to explore if it felt Pauw had erred in his book.
“As South Africans, we have a right to know who our president is financially beholden to, how he manages his financial affairs, and how he handles his financial responsibilities.
Because if Shabir Shaik’s trial taught us one thing, it is that money is one of a multitude of Zuma weak-spots, and an area of his life that needs the utmost scrutiny and transparency,” SaveSA said in a statement.
“Cracking down on the truth is symptomatic of a president under siege,” it said.
The SaveSA campaign said Zuma and “his lackeys” always tried to keep the nation in the dark about his criminal conduct.
“After all, this is the same president who is trying to block a judicial commision of enquiry into state capture, at the same time as state security agents are trying to take this book off the shelves,” it said.
Earlier on Friday, Pauw said: “I didn’t think it would take this long.”
“Why not earlier? The SSA was asleep when the book was published, quite frankly,” he said.
READ MORE: Pauw not intimidated by SARS, SSA
SARS said earlier on Friday that it was “deeply concerned” about the publication of confidential taxpayer information which was in contravention of the Tax Administration Act.
“As a result, SARS is duty-bound to address the violation of the TAA by Mr Jacques Pauw and the unsubstantiated allegation that Commissioner Tom Moyane is aiding President Zuma to avoid his tax obligations,” a SARS statement said.
Following that, the SSA’s cease and desist letter demanded that the book be recalled and that certain parts of it be retracted.
Despite the threats by SARS and the SSA, other organisations, including SaveSA and Corruption Watch, came out in support of Pauw.
Earlier, Exclusive Books CEO Benjamin Trisk said they believed it was within the bookstore’s right to continue selling the 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.
READ: Controversial Zuma book ‘will stay on the shelves’
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.
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.