Jacques Pauw’s “The President’s Keepers”

November 8, 2017

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw is currently the most talked about person in whole of Africa, he has done what current crop of journalists don’t dare do, revealing the corrupt state security agencies. Pauw who reaffirmed his allegations contained in his book, ”The President’s Keepers,” has grabbed the bull in the name of State Security Agency (SSA) by its horn. We’re seeing a new trend in South Africa where brave individuals are coming out strongly against corruption and whose controversial views a segment of the ruling elite find objectionable. In the case of Pauw, he has ultimately not canned the events amid death threats and few moments ago launched his book despite the power outages which one would suspect was a saboteurs plan. Why this recent trend in silencing controversial figures in rainbow nation? And what about freedom of speech? Isn’t this a dangerous precedent to set if South Africa value democracy, not to mention human rights? Going to think through these questions, those in power should be reminded of precisely why people like Pauw have written books. Nonetheless, many South Africans recognise the importance of such a freedom. It’s not that the views of Pauw are good, it’s debatable whether they are even political. Still, freedom of speech is a crucial democratic good that South Africa need, one that certainly ought not to be trumped by a desire for good character.Pauw’s book has raised legitimate concerns. In your blogger’s view, the most important point to consider is the invisible element of the freedom of speech defence. Specifically, that hate speech privileges certain social groups, and completely unfettered speech in the context of the journalists has a tendency to privilege poor and demonize the rich but thats not what Pauw case is all about.Quite interestingly, many ruling elites have committed corruption in policy areas, indicating entrenched maladministration and manipulation of formal structure of the state bureaucracy. For instance, during budget deliberation or authorization in South Africa, many rent seekers in the legislative and executive branches of power have colluded on several occasions which is said to be one of the reason State Security Agency wanted the book banned from circulation.This particular case by Pauw book displays at least three problematic issues with South Africa. One is that, executive power is dominated by personal political agenda. It is in line with a common understanding that a leader is a position that owns unlimited discretionary authorities over state budget.The other one is the budgetary control function that has been flawed with opportunistic and monetary motivated practices related to intelligence budgets and as Pauw explained moments ago in his launch it means State Security Agency has failed its institutional credibility.Another clear point your blogger noted on a launch he followed live online, shows that South African bureaucrats have also been widely dragged into channeling politicians’ ambition to secure and maintain their power through illicit ways. This is one of the puzzling issues in the current government as the bureaucrats are risking their positions if they did not compromise with the politicians’ instructions.Abuse of power and corruption by politicians and bureaucrats should give a cause for concern due to their direct impacts to South African citizens and potential to disrupt national stability. Corruption does not only lead to financial losses but also undermine the state’s credibility.Through corruption, South African citizens have been consistently manipulated. Their contribution to state revenues through taxes and retributions has enriched officials, their cronies and if Pauw’s allegations are proved, a bunch of intelligence agents including the current director general of South Africa’s intelligence agency, State Security Agency , Arthur Fraser.Furthermore, the notion of autonomous government institutions like State Security Agency that provides security services and builds closer and more trustful relationship with the public will lose its meaning and initial intentions.

Centralized policymaking process in South Africa has transformed into a transactional forum for politicians and bureaucrats. This marks a circumstance, where predatory and informal networks do not only exist between public officials and society or private sector as evinced in kickbacks on procurement at the state utility Eskom, or bribery in work permit issuance related to the Guptas family.More entrenched and more impactful the practice, it occurs and involves actors within public offices and in this case of Pauw’s revelations those at the heart of power. The crime as mentioned by Pauw seems to be more structured and controlled when established political mafias in South Africa control public institutions as friend ties help strengthen the informal networks on governance process and policymaking.The phenomenon of free speech in South Africa cannot escape its social and historical context. To understand the benefits of unrestricted speech, one need to understand the workings of inequality in South African society today, and relatedly have an understanding of the history of subordination and privileging of certain groups of politicians and business people like the Guptas.It helps if South Africans recognise that every person lives an individualistic life that can interlock to create a unique experience of social dislocation and oppression, so too can group membership interlock to create a unique experience of social privilege.If South Africa is going to take seriously the task of corruption, social equality, then it need to acknowledge where inequalities exist in the society and support efforts by the likes of Pauw. Thanks to an increased brave individuals presence in the media, and the extraordinary work of investigative journalists like Pauw, the general South African public are waking up to the fact that majority of the populations remain an oppressed group where their taxes end up in the pockets of a few individuals.But when people like Pauw start campaigning against corruption in the country, they essentially advocate for legally fighting it, when they seek to teach methods of tackling it, if equality is ruling elite’s aim, books like ”The President’s Keepers,” help the public look not only at the corrupt institutions and individuals, but also the people perpetrating it.Almost 24 years after end of apartheid, corruption, and abuse of power do not appear to diminish. Instead, the authoritarian and corrupt regime of the democratic South Africa has reincarnated in a more international way.Since the current President came into power, local officials have indulged greater powers in many aspects of policymaking, such as arranging and disbursing budgets, granting investment or permits and promoting staff. Concomitantly, in that period, the number of state actors accused of budget misappropriation or power abuse has persistently on the rise. Those in power seems to have centralized acts of corruption that Pauw book seems to have addressed.There is a causal-mechanism to explain this phenomenon, which lies in the relationship between the uninterrupted autonomous power and the amount of resources managed by those in ruling class. Another variable is a lack of supervision by independent institutions but thanks to Pauw we now know more.Your blogger has no intention to generalize corruption cases involving South African government officials. Moreover, without disaggregating efforts to combat corruption at the national level, the public is now more engaged in the policymaking process or whistle-blowing mechanism like Pauw has done. Centralization and democratization have exposed African governments to a novel concept of accountability, in which their actions continuously come under the scrutiny of their constituents. Corruption and abuse of power at the heart of current regime in South Africa might have manipulated South Africans, but state officials who perpetrate the acts risk losing their credibility to govern. Well done Pauw and may we have many more of you across Africa.

Contador Harrison