Mac ‘broke the law’

2011-12-03 17:09

Presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj may himself have broken the law he hopes will be used to prosecute journalists.

This relates to reports alleging his apparent lies during an inquiry into his affairs by Scorpions investigators.

City Press has confirmed that Maharaj gave his biographer Padraig O’Malley access to a transcript of his secret Section-28 interrogation by the Scorpions in 2003.

This may lead to him facing prosecution in terms of the same draconian law he has used in a criminal complaint against the Mail & Guardian newspaper and two of its reporters.

If convicted, he – like the journalists – could face up to 15 years in prison. His attorney has also threatened that a criminal complaint could be laid against City Press, which last week exposed details of the interrogation which had been published in 2007.

This week, O’Malley confirmed that he had “looked at part of the transcript in (Maharaj’s) house” to “get a flavour of the type of questions he was being asked” during the interrogation.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said that Maharaj “could also potentially be in breach of that section . . . unless he got permission” to show the documents to O’Malley.

“Although the purpose of the (National Prosecuting Authority) NPA Act is to protect people like him who have been interviewed, that section doesn’t make an exception for him. So if he disclosed the information it can also be a violation,” De Vos said.

De Vos’ opinion was borne out by other legal experts who spoke to City Press. Maharaj’s lawyer, Rudi Krause, declined to comment.

Section 41 (6) of the act criminalises the “disclosure” to “any other person” of the “record of any evidence” given during a Section-28 inquiry without the permission of the National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane.

The only other exceptions are if the “disclosure” is required by a court or if it is required for someone to “perform his or her functions in terms of (the NPA Act) or any other law”.

O’Malley, a scholar and renowned peace activist, said: “I looked at the transcript and some of his responses and then wrote. I’m pretty sure I did not get a copy because I didn’t require it.

“I remember he was getting sick and tired of constantly being harassed by the interrogators and kept saying to them: ‘If you have a case against me, charge me for God’s sake or let me get on with my life’.”

At the time, O’Malley recalled, Maharaj told him he intended to “go to the ANC and convene a meeting of the seniors and explain everything”.

According to O’Malley, an ANC national executive committee meeting was subsequently convened and chaired by Kgalema Motlanthe, now the deputy president. Maharaj’s explanation of the allegations of corruption, money laundering, bribery and tax evasion being levelled against him was accepted by the ANC.

O’Malley said: “One thing Mac prided himself on, and that he regarded as the core of his being, was his sense of integrity. So I would be surprised if he was engaged in an enterprise that was corrupt. That’s not to say it didn’t happen.

“Mac’s a controversial personality and he made quite a number of enemies during the struggle, after the struggle and now that he has risen to prominence again. Someone wants to . . . take him down.”

Krause responded: “We are in the process of consultation with Mr Maharaj but he will be leaving SA for a couple of weeks so there is no action yet”.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said he could not respond to questions relating to the matter as Maharaj’s complaint was still under investigation and had to be decided on by Simelane.

– Additional reporting by Thanduxolo Jika 

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