Can Jaques Pauw Claim To Have a Reputation and Integrity to Protect?

By Pinky Khoabane

Editor’s Note: We have had technical problems with the blog. It doesnt display properly on mobile phones. 

AFTER the recent damning admission by investigative journalist Jaques Pauw that he lied in an opinion piece published by Daily Maverick, can he still continue with his defamation lawsuit against Prerotia News editor Piet Rampedi?

Last year, Rampedi posted several tweets in which he accused Pauw of racism, lying and challenged him to address allegations that he molested children in Mozambique while on an assignment in early 2000.

Pauw then sent Rampedi a lawyer’s letter giving him 24hours to apologise and remove the remarks or face “legal action”. Rampedi ignored the gagging order, forcing Pauw to issue summons, suing Rampedi for R500,000.

The big question is whether Pauw’s case against Rampedi can still hold given the former’s confession so devastating to media integrity that journalists who otherwise cover-up for their clique of friends, found themselves having to come out and lambast their own.   

At the time, Rampedi called Daily Maverick a “propaganda portal” carrying the lies of Pauw. One of the tweets read: “Racist liar @Jaqqs must do two things before i can take him seriously: (a) Prove his lies in a 2017 book that the Guptas bankrolled my newspaper, and (b) clear serious allegations that he molested young boys in a hotel in Mozambique on SABC assignment in early 2000. #rogueunit”

In the aftermath of the Pauw lie, Anton Harber, a veteran journalist that has strongly criticised the Sunday Times and the journalists who wrote about the alleged SARS Rogue Unit, specifically Rampedi, took to Twitter. He called the Pauw incident “devastating”. “The Jacques Pauw/Daily M (Daily Maverick) saga has been devastating. The Satchwell Report on Media Credibility and Ethics was clear on how journos have to tighten up and stop this stream of appalling mess-ups if we are to rebuild credibility. This takes us back to first base”.

He went on further: “I struggle to think of a journalistic disaster more harmful than this one, and we have had a few competitors.”

And so how is Pauw going to argue that his reputation as a journalist has been tarnished by Rampedi’s allegations following the backlash of his lie? Not only is this an issue relating to facts or the lack thereof but it talks to how someone abused his power and proximity to those who hold powerful positions in the media. Even more disturbing is how journalists with access to powerful media bosses can tell whatever story they like and be believed. 

Daily Maverick, despite the serious accusations about the police and the restaurant, believed Pauw’s version. They claim they approached the other parties in the story but they were unwilling to speak. I frankly don’t believe they tried hard enough. Pauw is the king of the stratcom media cabal. Had it not been for the CCTV footage, Pauw would have gotten away with this lie. His story would have stuck and the question is how many such stories have been carried without proper editorial scrutiny. 

With its tail between its legs so to speak, the Daily Maverick had to retract Pauw’s story, having initially published Pauw’s apology or explanation of his lie, which he published independently on Twitter without sharing it with the Daily Maverick – “a puzzling and unethical breach”, the publication called it. 

Having viewed the CCTV footage, Daily Maverick decided to publish the story of what transpired that day. 

As it turns out, just about every bit of Pauw’s story was a lie. He and a woman friend, whose identity is still protected, had a whole lot of alcohol. They had no masks. When he couldn’t pay the bill of R1600, he on three occasions tried to leave the restaurant without paying. In his original version of the story, he accused the police of stealing his money and it turns out the woman friend with whom he was consuming the alcohol, pocketed the money. She also took the keys which he originally said he had left at the restaurant. 

We now know that he lied to the Daily Maverick several times on this story. To try and salvage its reputation, the publication has severed ties with him.

For a publication which will even dig into the dustbins of black politicians to count the condoms and publish the price tags discovered in the bin as it did with the Economic Freedom Front’s stay at a guest house in Capetown, it comes as a surprise (not really) that Pauw’s incident went through  without editorial checks.  

The South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) also issued a statement of its “disappointment” at Pauw’s conduct. “Disappointment”…well well. “The South African National Editor’s Forum (SANEF) is deeply concerned and disappointed by the ethical breaches in the opinion piece by veteran investigative journalist Jacques Pauw, published by the Daily Maverick last Friday.

“This development highlights the bitter struggles of integrity and ethics the media is grappling with. SANEF is preparing to hold its upcoming Media Ethics and Credibility Summit in an effort to strengthen media integrity and credibility, and to regain the public’s trust,” the statement continued. 

There has been much said about Pauw’s drunk state but he wrote the story the week after his drinking spree. He was…well…hopefully sober at the time! His drinking isn’t really the issue and should not detract from this serious matter.

So too his stories about the notorious Vlaakplas which some of his friends would like us “not to forget” in his defence. It is factually incorrect to say he exposed Vlaakplas, South Africa’s death squads. It is an askari by the name Butana Almond Nofomela who in October 1989, minutes before being sent to the gallows for the murder of a farmer, confessed to horrific tales of torture and murder that took place at Vlaakplas. He identified a retired security policeman Dirk Coetzee as his commander. Among the people he had helped kill was the respected human rights lawyer Griffiths Mxenge. His execution was stayed while a commission of enquiry was undertaken. Nofomela was telling the truth. 

There are other sources which indicate that the issue of South Africa’s death squads may have already surfaced by the time Nofomela made his confession. Another clear indication that Pauw did not expose Vlaakplas. The information was simply handed over to him – an argument some have made against him when he rubbished the many years of journalist Chris Steyn’s investigation into members of the National Party who were involved in child sex and paedophile rings. 

With respect to his case with Rampedi, can Pauw claim to have a reputation and integrity to protect? Methinks not.

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