M&G to hand letter to Simelane

2011-11-21 22:28

Johannesburg - The Mail & Guardian newspaper will hand in a letter to National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane on Tuesday regarding the use of information allegedly implicating presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj in illegal kickbacks.

Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes said the letter had to be redrafted to account for new information.

"He [Simelane] will get the letter tomorrow [Tuesday]. It had to be rewritten to reflect what happened on the weekend, like the Sunday Times story," he said.

Mail & Guardian reporters Sam Sole and Stefaans Brummer could be arrested after Maharaj laid charges against them at the Parkview police station on Saturday for being in possession of a document which could prove the allegations.

The charges relate to Friday's edition of the newspaper which had a front and second page with black blocks covering information it could not publish. The information allegedly proves that Maharaj and his wife Zarina received kickbacks during his tenure as transport minister.

Dawes said the charges would "not wash in any court", as Maharaj's instigation of legal action leaned heavily on the newspaper's possession - rather than disclosure - of the information.

"The act pertains to the disclosure of information, [the way the story was published] we did not disclose it," he said.

Maharaj wants the police to establish whether the publication and the reporters broke the provisions of section 41(6) of the National Prosecuting Act of 1998. He also asked the police to investigate whether records of national prosecuting authority (NPA) inquiries had been stolen.

Sanef

On Monday the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) came out in support of an attempt by the Mail & Guardian newspaper to obtain permission to publish the information.

"Sanef is concerned that the testimony by Maharaj, who as the spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma is at the heart of government, should be kept secret and joins the Mail & Guardian in requesting [national prosecuting authority head] Menzi Simelane to release the record immediately," Sanef said in a statement.

"Information about Maharaj's testimony and conduct, given his high profile role in government and his former role as minister of transport, is of major public interest."

The Sunday Times had reported that Maharaj and Zarina received millions of rands from French arms company Thales.

According to the report secret payments totalling 1.2 million French francs (R3.2m) were paid into Zarina's offshore bank accounts shortly before Thales was awarded a R265m tender by the department of transport, which Mac Maharaj headed at the time.

The payments were made via Swiss bank accounts belonging to Schabir Shaik's company Minderley Investments, which the newspaper said was used as a conduit by Thales and its predecessor Thompson CSF.

On Monday Maharaj said he was willing to face legal processes in response to the allegations.

"I will subject myself to the process of the law because it would be a process where I have rights. It would be putting all the information on the table," he told SABC television news.

Earlier on Monday, SAfm radio reported that President Jacob Zuma said it would be out of order for him to comment on a controversy involving his spokesperson Maharaj.

"Mr Maharaj is handling that matter at a legal level, so I don't think I'm qualified to come in and comment on it," Zuma told a business breakfast hosted by The New Age newspaper.

"I think it would be clearly out of order while the matter is handled at that level and then I come in and say 'this is what I want to do'."

Maharaj is set to address the National Press Club in Pretoria on Tuesday.

When asked for a response to the Democratic Alliance's call that he be suspended, he said: "It's a free country."

DA transport spokesperson Stuart Farrow said he had lodged a request with the Public Protector for her office to investigate the matter.

- SAPA
Read more on:    thales  |  sanef  |  schabir shaik  |  jacob zuma  |  menzi simelane  |  mac maharaj  |  stuart farrow  |  arms deal  |  media
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