Jacques Pauw at his book launch in Brooklyn Mall, Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA
A strategy of sorts is emerging in the State Security Agency’s response to Jacques Pauw’s explosive best-seller, The President’s Keepers.

It appears the spooks want to wear down the journalist and his publisher with bad play.

It’s a tactic the sporty types at the Mahogany Ridge recognise from school rugby: lull the opponent into a false sense of security through sheer uselessness: continually drop the ball, pass it forward, knock on and so forth. Then, when it’s least expected, suddenly score with a miraculous return to form. Admittedly, it didn’t work back then and, alas, it probably won’t work now.

The SSA, in its unwitting and perhaps witless role as Pauw’s publicists, has chosen to further boost sales of the book by opening a criminal case against the author for allegedly dabbling in classified information.

This latest action follows a couple of cease and desist letters to Pauw and his publisher, in which the agency demanded that certain chunks of the book be excised on the grounds that they’re full of inaccuracies.


Quite apart from the fact that such actions suggest that the alleged inaccuracies are, on the contrary, very much accurate, the letters have done much to ensure The President’s Keepers has become the fastest selling book in South Africa since 2004.

Since its release on October 29, 25 000 copies have been sold in book stores and another 50 000 are on back order. International digital sales have been phenomenal. When I checked last weekend, it was ranked 21st on Amazon’s top 100 Kindle chart.

A day later, and following that first, highly publicised letter from the SSA, it shot to 14th place and was jostling for space with heavyweight novelists Dan Brown, JK Rowling, John Grisham and Lee Child.

As I write, the book has dropped to 46th, but perhaps the agency’s decision to open this foolish case against Pauw could send it back up the charts. With a bullet, as they say.

At the moment, the market is cluttered with new Jacob Zuma books. They include former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils’s A Simple Man and Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit’s Enemy of the People. No doubt the authors are hoping the spooks will also be making a big noise about their inaccuracies.

It is good, too, that opposition MPs are doing their bit to encourage literacy. This week, during Zuma’s address to the National Council of Provinces, they brandished Pauw’s book as well as Redi Thlabi’s Khwezi, the best-selling biography of Fezekile Kuzwayo, the woman who accused Zuma of rape.


Accused Number One has noticed.

“People know they can’t discuss anything,” he was quoted as saying. “They try not to sleep, reading the books, uh-huh, all the lies and speculation and imagination of people. That’s become the politics, the politics to use here: ‘That is the book, you know! This is the book. Can you say no to this book’

“Jirre, novels! It is people who sit down and just think and composition of people (sic).” This, from a man who has threatened to think and composition of his own story one day.

But speaking of novels, it’s been suggested - mostly by talk-show hosts - that the accounts of fraud, corruption, theft and delusional behaviour in Pauw’s book are so mind-boggling that they are way beyond the realm of fiction.

This is nonsense, of course, and it could be that talk-show hosts are unfamiliar with Ian Fleming’s novels and their film adaptations. The time has come, maybe, for further adaptation to suit domestic audiences.

What about To Russia With Love? Here a downgraded Bond - now agent 0.7% to reflect the growth rate - trails Energy Minister David Mahlobo, disguised as a matryoshka doll, as he makes his way from the fleshpots of Mpumalanga to Moscow with a sealed nuclear deal.

Who remembers the revolving number plates of the Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger? Well, in the reboot, Guptafinger, they don’t change number plates, they just change cars. In the secret lair of his parallel universe spy network, SSA director-general Arthur Fraser has about 280 different vehicles to choose from.

The on-and-off-and-maybe-on-again affair between former Sars group executive Johann van Loggerenberg and attorney Belinda Walter is detailed in The Spy Who Loved Me Twice.

And coming soon: Nkandla Royale, Lie Another Day, Zuptapussy, On Saxonwold’s Secret Service, Randfall

* Donaldson's A Famous Grouse column is published every Saturday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.