M&G obtained documents unlawfully - Maharaj

2011-11-18 07:21

Johannesburg - The Mail & Guardian obtained documents relating to a reported interview he had with the National Prosecuting Authority unlawfully, presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said on Thursday.

Maharaj said in a statement: "Mail & Guardian seeks to hide its complicity in criminal act/s by raising the spectre of a threat to media freedom and invoking fears of censorship.

"This afternoon through my attorneys we drew their attention that they were on record admitting that they were in possession of documents that they could not have obtained lawfully.

"Their attention was drawn to the National Prosecuting Act and that they were in blatant and wilful contravention of provisions of that Act," Marahaj said.


The Mail & Guardian was expected to hit the streets on Friday with the front page featuring a picture of Maharaj alongside the words in bold: "Censored. We cannot bring you this story in full due to a threat of criminal prosecution."

According to a tweet on social networking site Twitter, its editor Nic Dawes said: "Just learned that the NPA Act has sections as bad as #secrecybill. Your M&G will look butchered tomorrow. Blame Mac Maharaj."

Dawes also posted a link to a picture of the weekly's front page for Friday, saying in another tweet: "Sorry to give you a paper that looks like this. A glimpse of life under #secrecybill."

Another picture shows a story on its inside page, headlined, "A buried trail of lies".

Big black blocks are printed over about three quarters of the page, where the story would have been published.

Dawes said the weekly had "wanted to publish information from an NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] Section 28 interview with Mac Maharaj. Apparently it's illegal to do that...

"Just like the #secrecybill the NPA Act punishes disclosure of S28 records with up to 15 years, even if you aim to reveal serious wrongdoing," tweeted Dawes.

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 and Guardian Online on Thursday evening.

Story raises questions about Maharaj's conduct

"After sending questions to Maharaj on Wednesday this week, the M&G received a letter on Thursday from Maharaj's lawyers warning of a potential criminal prosecution if we published the story," Dawes said in a statement posted on the website.

"We believe that we have every right to publish the information which raises serious questions about the conduct of the man who speaks on behalf of the president.

"However, faced with threats of both civil and criminal action, we have been advised by our lawyers to withhold publication pending an application to the national director of public prosecutions for permission to disclose the relevant material.

"We hope that the director, Menzi Simelane, will demonstrate the government's professed commitment to transparency," said Dawes.

Maharaj responded in a statement: "In the name of press freedom the M&G arrogates to itself the 'right' to break the law that has been on our statute books since 1998.

"Their editor Nic Dawes acknowledges as much when he states that they will now seek the permission of the National Director of Public Prosecution, Adv Menzi Simelane, for 'permission to disclose the relevant material'.

"In short they want the NDPP to retrospectively give them legal protection against their unlawful actions.

"Through their sensational and at times distorted reportage they want to deflect attention from their wrong doing and depict my upholding of my rights embodied in our laws as a threat to media freedom."

Secrecy bill

This came as State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said this week it would be reckless to add a public interest defence clause to the protection of state information bill, also known as the secrecy bill.

The SA National Editors' Forum has threatened legal action if the clause were left out, warning on Thursday of the consequences.

"Such a clause would enable a journalist, whistle-blower, or citizen who disclosed classified information, if charged, to enter a defence plea of publication in the public interest," Sanef said.

Sanef wants the public interest defence to be written into the bill to protect journalists who publish classified information to expose wrongdoing on the part of the state.

  • Dave - 2011-11-18 07:30

    What about the phone transcripts in Hulley's possession?

      sefeddt - 2011-11-18 07:50

      Exactly, illegally obtained using state resources.

      Len - 2011-11-18 09:24

      Does not give you that much comfort that state institutions are able to keep private and often personal information. No wonder Home Affairs was such a joke. Having said this, two wrongs do not make a right. If what Hulley did was wrong, then by the same token, what the M&G is doing is wrong.

  • Missionman - 2011-11-18 07:46

    We as the public have a full right to know what is going on. I do not understand why the secrecy. These people in goverment work for us and should then report to us. This guy obviously has a lot to hide. This is digusting to say the least. We must all fight this protection of info bill as well. More people should take goverment to the costitutional court and damm their secrecy - WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW.....

      Len - 2011-11-18 09:26

      Surely, civil servants are like us too, they have rights. Newspapers are boun by the same laws that bind us, and cannot commit crimes in carrying out their investigations which have a financial benefit in the end (when was the last time you got a free paper)

  • bobby.mykonos - 2011-11-18 07:46

    MG never heard of

  • Len - 2011-11-18 07:48

    While I despise The Mac and his Zuma connection, this is a matter of principle. Censorship is an unfair prevention of information that is of public interest and obtained legally, from being published. If a newspaper seeks to publish my bank account details, my pin numbers and information that I expect to be protected and private, then that is not censorship. The media cannot be above the law. If they felt they were in the right, why would their lawyers tell them to seek approval from Menzi Simelane? If I am interviewed by the agency of the state, I expect the protections they promised me in making that information available to them. Otherwise, no one will want to talk to them, and this will be counter productive as it hamper the work of such an agency. If Nic Dawes is so sure of his rights, then he must publish and fight the issue in court. Again, I am no fan of the secrecy bill, the ANC leadership and Mac Maharaj, but the media cannot commit crime in carrying out their duties which has commercial rewards. What next, break into your home to reveal intimate details of what happens in the privacy of your home?

      Squeegee - 2011-11-18 07:59

      Len, good point. Our hunger for information - and particularly for 'dirt' on those we disagree with often leads to good people making less than moral judgements. I find myself torn between the "What is Mac hiding?" question and the issue of privacy that needs to be protected. Perhaps its a good thing that this tension exists - however, what we don't need is greater legislation to protect corrupt officials.

      Len - 2011-11-18 08:05

      I am against the secrecy bill, at least, some parts of it. I would not want someone working for our defense force to sell information to Syria, but would not want a government official who is corrupt to benefit from such protections either.

      George - 2011-11-18 08:20

      unbiased comment. You really do understand logic. high five to you.

      Mzamo - 2011-11-18 08:27

      I fully agree with Len. It would have been better if their point is that Mac Maharaj does not want to give the report so that they can publish it! But they went with back-door first and obtain the document illegally, and they knew that they were in wrong (if that's not the case, why they seek permission to publish it?)!! This is the same as stealing the car and then try to register / licence it under your name!! Nevertheless, they must try to obtain a legal copy and publish it for us! It looks like it got juicy information!!

      Peter - 2011-11-18 08:40

      If it is in the public interest, publish and be damned

      Jeffrey - 2011-11-18 08:49

      We don't know how the M&G came into possesion of this stuff. It may be illegal that they have it, but we cannot say that they stole it. Probably was passed on by a whistleblower. They have not publlished it. It is not the same as breaking into someone's house and stealing their personal belongings. If that sneak Maharaj lied to the Scorpions it should be public knowledge.

      Len - 2011-11-18 09:32

      @Jeffrey. So, if someone gives you money which you know was stolen from a bank, you would not see anything wrong with that? The fact remains that the ANC is fighting their battles in the public domain. Revelations about each personality will become the norm until Mangaung. Therefore the issue of a whistleblower now suddenly coming out is nothing but a smokescreen. for the next year, there will be revelations and counter revelations and the sad thing is that our state resources are being dragged into these fights and the media is a big tool in this game. You will soon hear secrets about Derek Hanekom, Tokyo Sexwale, etc, etc. If the M&G saw nothing wrong with their position, they would have published and they should have published. The fact that they did not publish means they knew the situation they would find themselves in.

  • Neil - 2011-11-18 07:52

    And so the exploitation of the 'secrecy bill' starts, by a corrupt government who can now imprison you for exposing their corruption. God I hate the ANC.

      Len - 2011-11-18 08:02

      Both sides are exploting it. The media can scream secrecy bill to get you to buy their newspaper. Forget about the ANC and Mac Maharaj, insert yourself in the story. You are interviewed ratting on your company which you know is up to no good. You agree to the interview on the basis that you will not be exposed and you can therefore continue to earn a living. A newspaper then breaks into the vaults and steals that information and publish it for commercial gain. Will you simply say "oh well" and move on, or will you fight to ensure that the information is protected? It is not about what the Mac has done to be hated, but whether the media has the right to commit crime in order to make a financial gain. If you believe they do, then I fear you mistake issues of privacy and principle. The media has rights, but those rights come with principles and ethics. Some information cannot be unpublished and an apology would not cut the mustard. I appreciate the fact that the media often operate close to the legal boundaries in carrying out their job, but their lawyers seem to indicate that they felt there was a need to consult on the matter. Separate the principle from the people you hate. When the Thurd Reich came for Jews, the good law abiding people of Germany let them do it, because they had a hatred of their Jewish neighbours and look what good it did to them.

      Missionman - 2011-11-18 08:06

      A futher thing that must be pointed out is that goverment and its agencies wants to know every detail of every citizen in this country.This is also an invasion of our rights. I am not saying that we should have anything to hide but where is the mutual respect. They have no respect for the man in the street but demand that we must respect their unreasonable bill and accept it. Corruption will be hidden and the normal citizens will just continue to be milked to fund this. This is all exploitation. Goverment needs to re think its place in this country.

      George - 2011-11-18 08:25

      Your hatred clouds your thinking. You cannot be taken serious since you are not serious about yourself. You are too much for a nice cloudy friday.

      Harald - 2011-11-18 08:55

      Len.... this is not a private company; but a public institution... for the people, by the people. THERE SHOULD BE NO SECRETS! and its a slipery slope in justifying this....

      Len - 2011-11-18 09:10

      @Harald. There was a big scandal in British media recently which lead to a newspaper shutting down. The media were listening in on private conversations, illegally. Even the biggest propoponents of press freedoms never defended such behaviour. It seems it is OK to you as long as the target is someone you do not like. Problem is, by the time they come for you, no one will be left to defend your personal rights. Just because I work as a civil servant does not mean I give up my rights to be treated fairly.

  • Dirk - 2011-11-18 07:54

    The skebenga lackey in the Big Skebengas office, obviously, has something to hide. Criminals in office. Dont fret- their day is coming

      Len - 2011-11-18 08:05


  • Herman - 2011-11-18 07:54

    And he fought against Apartheid!!! Double standards or just a new version of Apartheid being implemented by the criminal anc regime?

  • marazor - 2011-11-18 08:07

    M&G seeking attention. They could have just published the damn story and deal with the consequences later. But they just had to make a meal of it

      Squeegee - 2011-11-18 08:14

      What do you expect? - thay are in the business of selling papers - Mac played right into their hands.

      gabriel.melim - 2011-11-18 08:16

      Will you face 15 years in jail and ruin your future???

  • marazor - 2011-11-18 08:19

    highly unlikely that this could have ended with someone going to to jail. So let's not be dramatic here. Newspapers have long been publishing information that's deemed to have been obtained illegally... I guess M&G is not Sunday Times, it's just a tabloid seeking publicity

      roboman1 - 2011-11-18 08:48

      Your opinions are naive

  • Anton - 2011-11-18 08:21

    Maharaj has always been a crook, plus you will see that his name will come out during the Arms Deal probe. He was also fired from Fisrtrand for being dodgy. A dog always returns to its vommit.

  • NrGx - 2011-11-18 08:28

    Maharaj said in a statement: "Mail & Guardian seeks to hide its complicity in criminal act/s Kind of like what you are doing Mr Mac!

  • Rob - 2011-11-18 08:30

    I will be a whistle blower and they will not touch me because they can try but Twitter and FaceBook are too powerfull. Look for me on Twitter @revealthem

  • J.D. - 2011-11-18 08:33

    hey what happened to old jimmy manyi. silently silenced. ha come on M+G give them hell.

  • Rob - 2011-11-18 08:33

    No secrecy bill will ever stop me from being a whistle blower. Who do they think they are.

      Squeegee - 2011-11-18 09:12

      Nice sentiment, but foolish and improbable. Are you married? Do you have children? mmm probably not, if you do then you are just an idiot with a keyboard.

  • Harald - 2011-11-18 08:38

    the tip of the iceberg... I love the way he says ""In the name of press freedom the M&G arrogates to itself the 'right' to break the law that has been on our statute books since 1998" Thats what it will sound like when the secrecy bill is introduced... And what of the truth, and right to know... He doesn't say a word about what it is that he is hiding... hipocrits!!

  • Peter - 2011-11-18 08:55

    Didm't Mac step down suddenly as a director of FNB suddenly- shortly after being appointed when he was alledgedly being invetigated by the NDPP

      Len - 2011-11-18 11:26

      Yep, and it the information obtained through the NDPP subpoena that is being exposed.

  • Andre - 2011-11-18 09:07

    Interesting, if the said act preventing obtaining this kind of information unlawfully are so strongly enforced, why is it that Mr Hulley being an Advocate, not being prosecuted for obtaining legal information unlawfully in the Zuma case?

      Len - 2011-11-18 09:22

      Very good point and question. However, it should not mean that everyone's rights are now trampled because Hulley was allowed to go free as a friend of Zuma. Two wrongs do not make a right. The Mail and Guardian should have made a song and dance about Hulley, and they did not.

      ryan - 2011-11-18 09:33


  • blakat - 2011-11-18 09:45

    Pity Wikileaks is taking strain - let's hope someone tweets something about the matter soon .... Mac baby, the mere fact that you want it hidden already points the finger straight at you.

  • TamaraSays - 2011-11-18 10:06

    Read the first sentence... by then I had made up my mind - JY LIEG!

  • George - 2011-11-18 10:33

    I am really refreshed by Len's comments this morning. He is really constructive and to the point. otherwise the so called bashers cant keep up with his reasoning so they'll resort to name calling and swearing. typical of idiots. Too much noise but nothing to offer. The secrecy bill is still not law yet so how cann people use it? Mac is refering to a 1998 act.

  • Len - 2011-11-18 11:10

    Facts: Under section 28 of the Act, individuals can be subpoenaed to testify under oath. The section can also compel people to hand over relevant evidence. This was used to empower NPA and Scorpions investigations. Under section 41, sub-paragraph 6 of the Act, disclosure of any information gathered from a section 28 interview is a criminal offence." We all favoured the work of the Scorpions and allowing information protected under this act to be in the public domain will weaken such institutions. The idea that we need to destroy what we have built over years just to nail one a****hole is counter productive. also, Mail and Guardian is trying to associate the secrecy bill to this event in essence implying the it was a government department of court that prevented them from publishing. Fact is that it is their lawyers under a threat from private individual that decided not to publish, hence the linking to the hated (correctly so) secrecy bill is only intended to tug at emotional strings and not logical or intelligent strings. If the M & G felt they were in the right, they would have published and would not have been in contravention of any court orders (since there were none) The mistake many of us are making is that we dislike Maharaj, we dislike Zuma and we dislike the ANC and M&G knows this of their readers and so they create an impression that state institutions blocked them. And we know that is a complete fabrication of the facts. I support freedom of the press.

  • Sean - 2011-11-18 11:47

    Seems the Big Brother plan is taking shape.

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