Johannesburg - The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) on Thursday described the recent raid of investigative journalist Jacques Pauw's home by the Hawks as having "a chilling effect on the fundamentals of democracy".
On Wednesday, the crime fighting unit swooped on Pauw's guesthouse Riebeek Kasteel, armed with a search and seizure warrant.
The author said the search was requested specifically by State Security Agency boss Arthur Fraser, who Pauw implicated in corruption in his bestselling book, The President's Keepers.
The IRR in statement said the raid raised "profoundly worrying questions" coming days after "several compromised individuals" returned to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet.
"The raid on the author bodes ill for South Africa at the very moment when so many had pinned their hopes on a post-Jacob Zuma era of open, accountable government, and an environment that would encourage, not deter, the holding of the powerful to account.
"South Africans may well wonder how it is that ANC politicians identified by investigative journalists as having been complicit in venal and corrupt conduct at their expense have survived despite commitments to clean and accountable governance, while one who had the courage to expose the rot is subjected to the hostile attention of the state’s security apparatus."
The institute further describe the raid as ominous and said it had "a chilling effect on the fundamentals of democracy: the freedom of citizens to make their own judgments on the strength of freely shared information and opinions".
Furthermore, while the IRR added that while no one was above the law, that the intimidation of journalists or writers – especially those who have demonstrated signal courage in exposing corruption that has cost citizens dearly over the past decade – is the expedient of authoritarian governments who either have something to hide, or are less afraid of curbing the truth than owning up to the consequences of the truth being told.
"In such conditions, a climate of fear and intimidation undermines society’s confidence in its freedoms and its future. South Africa, of course, is no stranger to the devastating political and economic consequences of such conditions.
"The ANC government would do well to reflect on what is required of it to equal a battered and long-suffering South Africa’s new-found optimism of recent weeks, and to digest the evidently unpalatable truth that the country is counting on it to demonstrate vigour in tackling those guilty of corruption – not the courageous few who have exposed it."