THE FOURTH ESTATE - HOW TWO SUNDAY TIMES REPORTERS SANK SARS AND THE HAWKS
Rogue journalist Stephan Hofstatter last week released a book titled 'Licence to loot'.
The book ostensibly seeks to reveal how the plunder of Eskom and other parastatals almost sank South Africa.
At the official launch of the book in Johannesburg, Hofstatter was challenged by an incensed audience who wanted to know from him why he should benefit from writing a book on State Capture, when he himself had previously promoted State Capture with his deceitful reporting on the SARS and Cato Manor stories.
Hofstatter offered a hollow apology to former SARS employee, Pete Richer for ruining his career.
The SARS, Cato Manor and Zimbabwean Rendition articles, which Hofstatter and WaAfrika co-wrote, led to the implosion of SARS and the HAWKS.
Dedicated public servants such as Pete Richer, Johann Van Loggerenberg, Ivan Pillay, Anwa Dramat, Shadrick Sibija and myself were hounded from office as a result of these stories and were replaced by the likes of Tom Moyane and Berning Ntemeza.
Mercifully both were later removed from office.
Ntlemeza was found to be unfit by the High Court and Moyane was suspended and faces being fired.
Their legacies are two broken institutions, SARS and the HAWKS.
Hofstatter evidently did not anticipate the hostility of the audience at the book launch.
He was clearly startled and humiliated and appeared mortified.
He was drinking from his own poisoned chalice…
Let's go back in time.
'Come on Paul, that's ridiculous and you know it. You've been working on this story for a month and contacted me for the first time on the Friday before going to print when you knew I would be on deadline.'
This was the anxious response of 'award winning' journalist Stephan Hofstatter who resigned from the Sunday Times after the so-called Sunday Times' investigative unit was shut down by Bongani Siqoko, the editor who took over from Felicia Oppelt after she was sacked.
Hofstatter's response was prompted by investigative journalist Paul Kirk, who challenged the so called Cato Manor 'Death Squad' invention, contrived by the discredited Sunday Times investigative unit.
KZN Provincial Head of Crime Intelligence, Major General Deena Moodly alerted me that Hofstatter and fellow 'journalist' Mzilikazi WaAfrika had been conniving clandestinely with criminal factions within Crime Intelligence and other suspects in criminal investigations to construct the now debunked Cato Manor 'death squad expose'.
Susan Smuts from the Sunday Times, in a letter to the press ombudsman, admitted that Hofstatter had worked on the Cato Manor story with Colonel NH Sing from Crime Intelligence.
NH Sing (now deceased) was linked, along with Crime Intelligence Chief, Richard Mdluli and others, to a multi-million rand corruption scam.
Moodly tipped me off that Hofstatter and WaAfrika plotted to contact me two days before the story was to appear, to catch me unprepared.
I immediately demanded a reasonable time to respond from the Sunday Times.
The stage was set for an acrimonious encounter with Hoffstater and WaAfrika.
Judging from Hofstatter's response to Paul Kirk on July 21 2015, he had become a victim of his own Machiavellian ways.
Hofstatter and WaAfrika, had entered the Taco Kuiper and Global Shining Lights journalism competition on the back of their Cato Manor 'death squad' fabrication.
They fraudulently claimed that they and their sources were attacked after their story was published.
They even fabricated a story that one of their sources was killed.
Kirk wanted to know from Hofstatter if any of these attacks were reported to the police.
I had previously challenged Hofstatter with the very question.
I also wanted to know from Hofstatter who these so-called sources were.
Hofstatter claimed to be concerned for their safety but was at pains to explain how the dead source's safety could be in jeopardy if his identity was revealed.
Needless to say, Hofstatter couldn't provide the name of the person that was 'killed', for the simple reason that it never happened.
Hofstatter and WaAfrika had lied in their portfolios when they entered the competitions and by doing so unethically collected the Taco Kuiper and Shining Lights awards for journalism.
The Cato Manor article was later exposed as a desperate conspiracy by individuals, including businessmen, police officers and politicians, under investigation, to thwart investigations against them.
Mark Shaw, director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, remarks in his book 'Hitman for Hire' that Hofstatter and Wa Afrika 'ironically, won an award' for the story and the 'story that emerged through, what was revealed to be a sophisticated disinformation campaign, relates to political interference within SAPS involving the police officer in charge of the unit, General Johan Booysen'
He comments that 'such false news stories demonstrate the degree to which coverage of the underworld may have wider political impacts'.
Jaques Pauw, author of the best seller 'The Presidents Keepers' tweeted in 2014 that the 'Sunday Times, investigative unit is a disgrace to SA journalism.'
The team he refers to is Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilkazi WaAfrika and Rob Rose.
It has emerged over the past months that they not only got the story wrong, but they acted maliciously in fingering General Booysen and his men…
Sunday Times legal editor, Susan Smuts, recently said that if the newspaper were played, they were not the only one.
Pauw continues 'What I want to know is what the respected Taco Kuiper judges are going to do about the reward they (wrongly) bestowed on the Sunday Times?'
Which brings us to a comment by one of these judges, Professor Anton Harber.
Commenting on Pauws book, Harber lambasts the Sunday Times 2011 report which stated that 'General Johan Booysen was running what was effectively a police hit squad in KwaZulu-Natal. This story is particularly embarrassing, as it won the Taco Kuiper Award for Investigative Journalism (in which I was a judge).'
During a radio interview with Eusebius McKaiser of Radio 702, earlier this year, it emerged that Hofstatter had experienced a period of emotional turmoil and at times did not recognize stories with his name in the by-lines of the Sunday Times.
It was vintage Hofstatter.
Scoop the money and awards but refuse to take responsibility if his stories are exposed as fake.
'Sadly,in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth'- Bill Moyers, a US journalist, writing for a magazine for the Institute for Public Affairs in Chicago.
The organizers of the Taco Kuiper and Shining Light Awards ought to review the awarding of the prizes presented to Hofstatter and WaAfrika, less their credibility suffer the same fate.