Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw spoke to The Citizen following two interviews in which former Sars law interpreter Keletso Bizoski Manyike accused the writer of having misrepresented him in his recent report in The Sunday Times.
Pauw’s story called into question the work done by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in her recent report, which found that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan had violated the constitution through involvement in the so-called Sars “rogue unit”.
Manyike told both 702 and Newzroom Afrika that he was unhappy with how he was portrayed in the article and – more importantly – that he believes Mkhwebane was correct in her conclusion in the report that the “rogue unit” existed and was unlawfully formed, going so far as to say he believes Pauw’s work is part of a plot to discredit the public protector.
On JJ Tabane’s show Your View on Newzroom Afrika, Manyike said he was “shocked” at the content of Pauw’s article, alleging that what ended up on the page was not what he had “engaged on”.
“As a lawyer I thought it was defaming my name, my integrity and my intelligence. I was appalled [and] shocked to say the least,” he said.
And on 702, Manyike said he didn’t accept Pauw’s apology for branding him an “unemployed, dope-smoking Rastafarian” in the story, because he is a “lawyer by profession” whose “name has been tarnished, my integrity has been attacked”.
On both stations, he said that while he had been incorrectly named in the report, as he himself was not a member of the alleged “rogue unit”, he believed that it existed and was involved in dodgy dealings. Mkhwebane’s report – on the whole – got it right, according to the former Sars employee.
Asked if Pauw was aware of Manyike’s apparent about-turn on Newzroom Afrika, the journalist said the former Sars employee’s interview was no such thing.
“What about-turn? He said he was never a member of the rogue unit,” Pauw said.
He added that while Manyike said he had spoken to the public protector, he was referring to former public protector Thuli Madonsela rather than the current one, which Pauw says is consistent with his story.
The Sunday Times report explained that Manyike’s naming as a source in Mkhwebane’s report was due to his lodging a complaint with Madonsela after he was demoted at Sars. According to Pauw, Manyike attached a dossier mentioning former Sars official Michael Peega, leading to Mkhwebane allegedly confusing Manyike with him and asserting that he was a spy for the “rogue unit”.
Manyike’s attaching of the dossier, Pauw says, means he must have known about the alleged “rogue unit”. According to Pauw this however, does nothing to harm the Sunday Times story’s credibility, as Manyike has admitted that he himself was not a member of the unit.
“He said he had spoken to the public protector – to Madonsela. I said in my story on Sunday that he had attached Peega’s dossier to his 2014 public protector complaint so he clearly had knowledge of the existence of the alleged rogue unit. The fact that he believed it existed is irrelevant because he was never there,” Pauw said.
As for Manyike’s expression of shock at how the story turned out, Pauw says his intentions as a journalist were made clear all along.
“I spoke to him three times on Thursday and Friday and told him exactly what I was doing,” he said.
Pauw also says his description of Manyike as an unemployed Rastafarian was simply him reflecting the way Manyike had described himself, and that the “dope-smoking” part was added not by him but by the Sunday Times.
“I’ve apologized, on behalf of the Sunday Times, who I don’t even work for, for calling him a pot-smoking Rasta.
“When I asked him how he would describe himself, he said an ‘unemployed Rastafarian and music artist’.
“The Sunday Times added the pot-smoking part and I should have taken it out.”
However, Pauw maintains that none of this interferes with the main point of his article – that Mkhwebane got Manyike’s role at Sars and his proximity to the alleged rogue unit wrong.
Mkhwebane presented Manyike as a “specialist agent” who had received “paramilitary training” to spy on taxpayers and politicians, but, as he revealed to Pauw, he was in fact a a law interpreter and then a debt collector at the revenue service, as well as Nehawu’s shop steward at Sars in Gauteng.
“It remains ludicrous that the public protector could have called him an agent,” Pauw said.
Lastly, Pauw says that the first time Manyike found out he was in Mkhwebane’s report was when the journalist phoned him, something Manyike himself confirmed in the Newzroom Afrika interview.
“Manyeki said he hadn’t read the report, so how come he says it is accurate?” Pauw asked.
The public protector’s reports are available for all South Africans to read on the Chapter 9 institution’s website.