M&G broke the law – Maharaj
Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj insisted that the Mail & Guardian (M&G) broke the law by running an article on his testimony in an arms deal probe.
It did so by trying to publish records of an inquiry into allegations that he received kickbacks from French arms manufacturer Thales, Maharaj said today.
“The M&G is in violation of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act.”
This was why he decided to proceed with charges against the newspaper and two of its investigative reporters, Maharaj wrote in an opinion piece published by the M&G.
He contended that the newspaper transgressed Section 41(6) of the act in disclosing information gathered in the course of a confidential inquiry.
The newspaper could only have received the records unlawfully “in that they were stolen from where they were kept before they were handed to the M&G”.
Maharaj said he was therefore not surprised that the newspaper was “so strident in condemning the criminal charges levelled against it as ‘an attack on the press’”.
“If no crime has been committed, why does it not let the matter take its course and let the courts decide?”
The charges relate to an article the weekly ran in November last year with most of the wording, and sections of an accompanying editorial, blacked out.
The newspaper said it censored itself under threat of legal action from Maharaj.
Editor Nic Dawes said if printed in full, the story would have shown that Maharaj had lied when questioned under oath by the now defunct Scorpions.
Last week, Dawes and reporters Sam Sole and Stefaans Brummer were questioned by the NPA’s specialised commercial crimes unit in Pretoria.
Dawes said they were called to so-called “warning” interviews, during which they were informed of the charges against them and of their rights.
Maharaj has denied ever being involved in corruption and bribery.
He said Dawes’s claim that his charges amount to an attack on press freedom, “conveniently” ignored the purpose served by section 41(6) of the NPA Act.
“The act serves a very specific purpose and in doing so seeks to counterbalance the intrusive measures contained in it by stipulating that these inquiries be confidential.”