Jacques Pauw File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Jacques Pauw File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

’I had too much to drink’ - Jacques Pauw apologises for ’mistakes’ after being arrested at Waterfront

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Feb 16, 2021

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Cape Town – Daily Maverick columnist, investigative journalist and author Jacques Pauw has apologised for his actions at the Waterfront which led to him being arrested, jailed and charged with theft.

In a statement on Tuesday, The President's Keepers author said he wished “to correct the mistakes I made in a Daily Maverick column’’ following his court appearance, which contained false allegations made against the police and restaurant management and staff.

Pauw admitted to having too much to drink on the day in question, February 6, and that his memory of the incident was blurred. His credit card being declined had led to to the furore, forcing him to go to an ATM to withdraw money.

Pauw had written that ’’three policemen pounced on me, cuffed me, and dragged me to a backlit office somewhere in the innards of the Waterfront. They accused me of having stolen R1 600 from the waiter’’.

He also apologised for falsely accusing three policemen of taking R1 000 in cash from him.

Pauw appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court last week Monday on a charge of theft, but denies that he is guilty of the charge. He said the restaurant owner is in the process of withdrawing the charge against him.

Western Cape police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said: ’’A case of theft was opened for investigation and a 61-year-old man was arrested on 6 February.

“He appeared in court on Monday, 2021-02-08. No SAPS members took anything that belongs to the suspect.'’

Pauw appealed to the public for any backlash against the V&A Waterfront and its restaurants to stop.

’’I had a meeting with the restaurant owner and a conversation with a V&A executive this Monday. They showed and explained certain facts to me. I misbehaved and I wish to apologize for my behaviour,’’ he wrote.

Pauw said he felt embarrassed about his conduct, especially ’’in this era of fake news, propaganda and lack of accountability’’.

Waterfront spokesperson Donald Kau said: ’’We have nothing to add to the statements issued by Mr Pauw.’’

Pauw’s statement:

I wish to correct the mistakes I made in a Daily Maverick column, “I was stunned and dazed when pounced on by police, arrested, jailed and charged with theft”, that appeared last Friday.

I also need to apologise for my actions when I was arrested at the V&A Waterfront on 6 February 2021. I was detained overnight and released at noon the following day on a warning.

On Monday, 8 February 2021, I appeared in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on a charge of theft. I denied this charge at the time, and still do. I maintain that my arrest and detention was unlawful.

On the Wednesday following my court appearance, I wrote a column for Daily Maverick in which I related my experience as I recalled it.

I wrote the column because I was emotional, angry, and humiliated by the entire experience. The column was published on Friday afternoon.

Upon reflection and additional evidence provided to me, I have realised that there are errors in the column. I now wish to set the record straight.

I had too much to drink in the restaurant and my memory was blurred. The ordeal of the experience of the arrest and having to spend the night in jail compounded my emotional state.

I had a meeting with the restaurant owner and a conversation with a V&A executive this Monday. They showed and explained certain facts to me. I misbehaved and I wish to apologize for my behaviour.

The column in the Daily Maverick created the impression that either the restaurant management, or the waiter that served me, or the V&A Waterfront made a call to the police to have me arrested. It turns out this did not happen. Neither the restaurant nor the Waterfront made any such calls and played no role in my arrest.

The three policemen who arrested me were already at, or near, the venue after attending to an unrelated incident.

They enquired what was going on. In the heat of the moment, I lost my cool and I acted in an impolite manner. My own action played a role in getting me arrested and detained.

I have also now established that the police officers did not take the R1,000 in cash I had with me. I was only provided with the evidence on Monday. I apologise to the three policemen for having said this.

The restaurant owner is busy withdrawing the charge of theft against me as there is no dispute between us. The outstanding bill was paid the Sunday morning prior to my appearance at court as I explained in the column

I must therefore appeal to the public that any backlash against the V&A Waterfront and its restaurants stop. Neither the restaurant nor the V&A Waterfront played any role in my arrest and detention.

I apologise to the restaurant, the V&A Waterfront and the police.

The V&A Waterfront has done much to protect their small and medium-sized businesses – including restaurants – during Covid and subsequent lockdowns, and therefore the organisation is undeserving of the criticism and attacks levelled at them because of my column.

I feel embarrassed about my conduct. In this era of fake news, propaganda and lack of accountability, I must publicly accept responsibility for my own actions and apologise for them. It is the right thing to do.

I also apologise to Daily Maverick readers and its editor for the wrong account of events in the opinion piece.

The full Daily Maverick statement

Pauw’s original column in the Daily Maverick, which has since been removed:

It is pay time in a restaurant. The waiter brings the bill. You offer your credit card in the knowledge that there is enough money in your account and that you have used your card that same day to make other purchases.

The bank declines your card, for whatever reason. There might be a glitch at your financial institution, you might have forgotten your pin or whatever else. It is embarrassing, and you must negotiate with the restaurant manager or owner how and when to pay the bill.

I have a restaurant and it happens from time to time. The diner would often leave his driver’s licence behind and go to an ATM. Or I take his particulars — credit card number, cellphone number and ID number — and give him my bank details to do an electronic transfer. Only in cases where a diner ultimately fails to pay might one consider a criminal charge — something that has never been necessary.

Have you ever thought that your card being declined could culminate in you committing a criminal offence? That you are guilty of stealing and that this might land you in a stinking and dirty holding cell where you might have to sit for two days before being trucked to court to appear on a charge of theft?

Impossible? No, it is not. Not in our broken and perverted criminal justice system, where miscreants in blue roam the streets.

On Saturday night at the Cape Town Waterfront, my credit card was declined at an up-market restaurant. When I went in search of an ATM to withdraw money, three policemen pounced on me, cuffed me, and dragged me to a backlit office somewhere in the innards of the Waterfront. They accused me of having stolen R1,600 from the waiter.

Two hours later and in excruciating pain from a thumb that felt as though it had been broken and cuffs eating into my wrists, I was transported to the Table Bay Harbour Police Station, where I was charged with theft, read my rights and thrown into a holding cell.

I was also given a receipt of the belongings that the arresting officers found on me. There was no mention of R1,000 I had in my pocket, which they had taken from me in the backlit room.

It also shows that I did not have either my cellphone or car keys with me when I went in search of an ATM. I had left them behind in the restaurant.

Policemen told me that I would be taken to court sometime on Monday, where I would be formally charged with theft. They refused to listen to any explanation and did not take a warning statement from me.

A mosquito-infested holding cell with three cement bunk beds, a broken shower, a dirty and stinking toilet and a wash basin was to become my home for the next two days.

It was one of the most hellish experiences of my life — something that some law-abiding citizens are exposed to daily.

I am writing this article not to lament my own predicament — which is small compared with others — but to illustrate how easy it is to fall prey to rogue elements in the SAPS.

I have always had enormous empathy and understanding for the many good cops out there who try to keep law and order in a crime-infested and violent country. But there seems to be a growing number of rogue and ruthless cops who target law-abiding citizens to extract bribes, enrich themselves, meet their arrest targets or simply satisfy their sociopathic tendencies.

I am privileged and have a public persona, which others do not have. They are vulnerable and have little recourse.

Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos says: “The problem of wrongful arrest by the police is widespread. In fact, endemic. But it impacts disproportionately on people who do not have social and economic power or status. The richer and the whiter you are, the less likely that you will be wrongfully arrested.”


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