Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane never said people must not buy writer Jacques Pauw's controversial book The President's Keepers, her spokesperson Cleopatra Mosana said on Sunday.
"Nowhere does she say, 'don't buy the book'. Her tweet was taken out of context," said Mosana after Mkhwebane's tweet to advocate Vuyani Ngalwana SC was interpreted by some as discouraging people to buy the book.
This was after news broke that the State Security Agency (SSA) sent NB Publishers a cease and desist letter, telling them to withdraw the book and redact excerpts on the grounds of alleged unlawful publication of classified material.
The SSA also threatened criminal charges against the publisher.
The SA Revenue Services (SARS) is also considering legal steps against Pauw, and the Sunday Times which published an extract, because of tax information it contains.
This relates to an allegation in the book that President Jacob Zuma received R1m a month from Roy Moodley in 2009, when president, without declaring it to the taxman.
SARS said Chapter 6 of the Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011 prohibits the disclosure of taxpayer information by a current or former SARS official.
The publisher said it stood by Pauw and the book.
Mkhwebane found herself in the fray when Ngalwana tweeted: ''Yho! I wasn't going to read the Pauw book. But now I'm interested??. At least I have a discerning disposition & can tell rubbish from fact.''
And fall into the trap of increasing sales for certain individuals don't think it's a wise move SC , boleka from oyithengile— AdvBusisiweMkhwebane (@AdvBMkhwebane) November 3, 2017
Mosana said that the Public Protector had the constitutional right to freedom of speech, but also felt that her comment had been misinterpreted.
She said it should be seen in the context of one friend bantering with another, asking to read the book when the other was finished with it.
She had also just ended a week of outreach in areas where people do not have all the resources they need, said Mosana.
In the meantime, a pirated PDF of Pauw's book is doing the rounds and shops have reported that they are sold out.
Pauw said in a statement on his Facebook page that he had been inundated with requests from people to pay him for the pirated copies circulating.
This helps everyone wrestling with these issues, thanks @JacquesPauw pic.twitter.com/Pw7UOMB6Li— Mary Metcalfe (@metcalfemary11) November 5, 2017
"I am not going to accept any money," he said.
Instead, people who could afford to buy a book or the kindle version should do so, and delete the PDF.
"If you can't find a book now, read the PDF but you should still order a book. If you cannot afford a book, go for it and read it. You have my blessing. This is not about money," he said.
"It is about your support that is going to enable us to legally lock horns with SARS, the State Security Agency and whoever else drags us to court. We face the potential of a multitude of legal challenges, both criminal and civil."
Pauw said that according to the SSA, an urgent court application to remove the book from the shelves was expected this week.
Asked for comment, SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said they were waiting for a response from the publisher.
The cease and desist letter gives the publisher a maximum of five days to provide written confirmation that it has complied with the directive.