Six years after a threat of criminal prosecution against Mail & Guardian, the paper was granted permission to publish a story about how President Jacob Zuma's former spokesman, Mac Maharaj, allegedly received bribes from Zuma's former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik.
On Friday, Mail & Guardian reported that, in 2003, Maharaj was questioned by the then-Scorpions about suspicious payments made to offshore bank accounts held by him and his wife, Zarina.
— amaBhungane (@amaBhungane) October 6, 2017
Mail & Guardian came into possession of the transcripts of that interview, and it appeared as if Maharaj lied to the Scorpions -- a criminal offence.
A reckoning at last. Better late than never. https://t.co/ML7aFb3gVY— Nicholas Dawes (@NicDawes) October 5, 2017
In 2011, Mail & Guardian was prevented from publishing the story after being warned that publishing the excerpts of that interview was illegal, unless the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) gave permission to do so. Then acting head of the NPA, Nomgcobo Jiba, refused.
Charges were laid against former Mail & Guardian editor, Nic Dawes, as well as investigative journalists Sam Sole and Stefaans Brummer.
But last week, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled that M&G could publish the story. The SCA ruled that there was no blanket ban on disclosure, according to the NPA Act, but that whether to give permission to disclose or not required "an appropriate balance between securing the criminal justice system and upholding freedom of expression".
The SCA finds the M&G shouldn't have been barred from publishing information about Mac Maharaj's lies. https://t.co/toyxyqfy8d— Mail & Guardian (@mailandguardian) September 29, 2017
Mac the knife, blunter than Blade...— Maggs Naidu (@maggsnaidu) September 30, 2017
Our courts rock. Viva SCA, viva...https://t.co/X05XDUvIQG
On Friday, Mail & Guardian reported that Maharaj allegedly lied about two payments totalling about R1-million at the time, paid by Shaik to Maharaj's Swiss bank accounts.
The money appears to have come from defence company Thomson-CSF, now called Thales, which was controversially awarded contracts during the arms deal, and which was Shaik's business partner.
Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in jail for being involved in an agreement by Thales to pay Zuma for his protection.
At the time, Thales was interested in several contracts at the department of transport, headed by Maharaj at the time, Mail & Guardian reported.
The paper reported that the timing of the payments to Maharaj was "highly suggestive" that they were related to a tender to supply bar-coded drivers' licences, which was awarded to a company in which Thales and Shaik had shares.
Maharaj did not respond to Mail & Guardian's questions, but asked its reporters to reveal their sources.