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The Mac behind the big cheese

The Editorial

Mac Maharaj is spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma, but that job description doesn't begin to capture his true influence.

Mac Maharaj is spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma, but that job description doesn’t begin to capture his true influence. He was a senior figure in the crack political team who brought Zuma to power and there can be little doubt his strategic insight is playing a crucial role in keeping him there.

He was also, from the start, tangled up in the personal, political and business relationships that were at the centre of the fraud and corruption charges that the president faced until they were controversially dropped in 2009—so much so that he was the subject of a Scorpions investigation into the flow of cash between himself, French arms company Thomson-CSF and Schabir Shaik, which closely overlapped the probe into payments received by Zuma.

We talk to M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes about Mac Maharaj’s accusations that the paper is ‘invoking fears of censorship’, and the plan in going forward with the story.
Maharaj has always angrily protested his innocence, insisting that the Scorpions were motivated by a political agenda. There is some evidence to suggest that they were, but there is other evidence too, evidence that matters more now that the Scorpions are long gone: evidencecensored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored cen

No doubt, Maharaj will once again insist there is a political motive at work in the emergence of this information. He has declined to answer our questions on the subject, save to ask how we obtained the records. We are more censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored censored Did he get money from a company that benefited from tenders directly linked to his ministerial portfolio; a company that later sought to influence arms-deal decisions through Shaik and Zuma? It appears censored.

If that is the case, why did the Scorpions investigation die with the unit? We were given an explanation, albeit a far-from-convincing one, about why the Zuma charges were dropped, but the excuse for the demise of the Maharaj case—that no clear nexus could be established between the payments and government tenders—looks threadbare.

The Constitutional Court this week made an order affirming the settlement reached between Zuma and Terry Crawford-Browne, who has campaigned for a judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal. The commission has been set up and given a wide remit. It cannot shy away from the question of Maharaj’s role. He can refuse to answer the Mail & Guardian but he can hardly refuse a panel of judges appointed by his boss.

* We have been compelled to redact this editorial on legal advice.

Read the second half of the editorial “Ethics bend under pressure

For more news on the arms deal visit our special report.

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