Details of presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj’s 2003 interview with the Scorpions were published on the front page of the City Press on Sunday.
The newspaper printed the contents of the then transport minister’s grilling by the Scorpions, with an editorial note pointing out that it had already published the information in 2007.
The Mail & Guardian had wanted to publish information which it claimed proved that Maharaj lied in the Scorpions inquiry last week but, after receiving threats of legal action from Maharaj, black blocks were printed over the controversial text.
“We wanted to combine information from the section 28 interview with the comprehensive documentation published last week to show Mac Maharaj lied that his and his wife’s receipt of money was innocent,” said M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes.
“We’ve said all along this information was in the public domain, which we included in our letter to the National Prosecuting Authority. This just highlights the absurdity of the criminal investigation by the Hawks currently under way into the M&G.”
Despite this, Maharaj laid charges against the M&G and journalists Sam Sole and Stefaans Brümmer, claiming that possession of the documents—part of a section 28 inquiry under the National Prosecuting Authority Act—was illegal.
The City Press said it had chosen to print the controversial text as it was in the public interest, and that confidentiality was a moot point as the facts had already been published years ago.
The reports on the inquiry raised questions relating to Maharaj’s time as transport minister from 1994 to 1999, when he allegedly received kickbacks from French arms and technology company Thales International.
On Thursday Maharaj said: “it now appears to me that the real target of this ‘renewed’ interest is not Mac Maharaj but President Zuma and his administration”.
“Unfortunately, the matter is now with the police and at this stage I prefer to leave matters there.”—Sapa.