Jacob Zuma silent on Mac Maharaj
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma says it will be out of order for him to comment on a controversy involving his spokesperson Mac Maharaj, SAfm radio reported on Monday.
"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'."
He had established an inquiry into the arms deal and queries had to go there.
"Why should I then take the job of the commission even if Mac was doing nothing about it. I've got a commission to deal with the matter."
Earlier, the SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) came out in support of an attempt by the Mail & Guardian to obtain permission to publish information which purportedly proves allegations that Maharaj and his wife received kickbacks while he was transport minister.
"Sanef is concerned that the testimony by Maharaj, who as the spokesman 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 on Monday.
"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."
Sanef said it was concerned that the newspaper and 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.
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.
It also asked the police to investigate whether records of National Prosecuting Authority inquiries had been stolen.
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 act makes it an offence to disclose evidence gathered in camera by a section 28 inquiry - providing for a maximum penalty of 15 years’ in jail, reported the Mail & Guardian online.
Mail & Guardian editor Nic 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 is set to address the National Press Club in Pretoria on Tuesday.
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.
Further comment was not immediately available from the NPA and the Mail & Guardian.