The irrefutable case to publish

Today we have quoted extensively from, and published in full on our website, a secret crime intelligence report detailing exceptionally serious allegations about the abuse of covert police funds for personal and political gain.

At the centre of the scandal is Richard Mdluli, who returned to his job on Wednesday following the direct intervention of President Jacob Zuma and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who overrode recommendations by the inspector general of intelligence, Faith Radebe, and senior intelligence officer Mark Hankel. Mdluli faces allegations of fraud, theft, nepotism and murder. It is bad enough that investigations into these have been stymied. Worse, Mdluli has been put back to work in one of the most sensitive posts in the entire security system. The only plausible explanation, one given by senior police and intelligence figures, is that Zuma regards Mdluli as an indispensable ally in the war for control of the secret state and its surveillance capacity.

We are not the first to air details of these allegations. The Sunday Independent was interdicted from disclosing some of the abuses on the grounds that the information was classified, and City Press and Noseweek magazine have detailed other claims against Mdluli. What we reveal is how Zuma and Mthethwa personally provided top cover for Mdluli, and how appalling that looks in the face of the report and recommendations of the top intelligence oversight official.

This reporting is a clear example of the kind of disclosure that will be illegal if the Protection of State Information Bill comes into force in its current form. The report is also a clear example of the kind of material that would be protected by a public interest defence clause in the Bill.

That a man who can operate with near unfettered power under a veil of secrecy should face such serious allegations, and that the president is prepared to defend and celebrate him brazenly, is the clearest case you are likely to find for the legitimate publication of state secrets.

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