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Maharaj himself may have breached disclosure law

Staff Reporter

A local publication reported on Sunday that presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj may have broken the law he hopes to use to prosecute journalists.

Despite denying ever being involved in corruption or breaking any laws, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj may well have broken the law he hopes will be used to prosecute journalists, City Press reported on Sunday.

The newspaper reported that it had confirmed that Maharaj gave his biographer Padraig O'Malley access to a transcript of his secret Section 28 interrogation by the Scorpions in 2003.

This may lead to him facing prosecution in terms of the same draconian law he has used in a criminal complaint against the Mail & Guardian newspaper and two of its journalists.

Section 41(6) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act criminalises the "disclosure" to "any other person" of the "record of any evidence" given during a Section 28 inquiry without the permission of the National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane.

The only other exceptions are if the "disclosure" is required by a court or if it is required for someone to "perform his or her functions in terms of [NPA Act] or any other law".

Potential prison term
If convicted, Maharaj—like the journalists—could face up to 15 years in prison.

City Press further reported that Maharaj's attorney threatened a criminal complaint could also be laid against the newspaper after it last week exposed details of the interrogation published in 2007.

O'Malley confirmed to the newspaper that he had "looked at part of the transcript" at Maharaj's house to "get a flavour of the type of questions he was being asked" during the interrogation.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said Maharaj could also potentially be in breach of Section 28, unless he got permission to show the documents to O'Malley.

"Although the purpose of the NPA Act is to protect people like him who have been interviewed, that section doesn't make an exception for him. So if he disclosed the information, it can also be a violation," De Vos said.

The newspaper reported that Maharaj's lawyer Rudi Krause declined to comment on the matter.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told City Press that he could not respond to questions related to the matter as Maharaj's complaint was still under investigation and had to be decided on by Simelane.—Sapa


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