Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-03 Reporter: Tim Cohen

Zuma Goes to Court to Challenge Scorpions



Business Day

Date 2003-09-03


Tim Cohen

Web Link


Lawyers want the original encrypted fax at heart of corruption allegations

Deputy President Jacob Zuma will launch his fight-back campaign today when his lawyers attempt to force the Scorpions to hand over the original version of the encrypted fax that is the cornerstone of the corruption case against Durban businessman Schabir Shaik.

Zuma's lawyer, Russell MacDonald, confirmed yesterday that he would launch an application on behalf of Zuma in the Pretoria High Court for the release of certain documents that form part of the Scorpions' case against Shaik.

The decision to press ahead with the application, despite the fact that Zuma has not been charged in the case, underlines the seriousness his legal team attaches to the case against Shaik.

Zuma was implicated in the charge sheet the Scorpions presented in their case against Shaik, and Zuma's lawyers evidently intend to lose no time in building a defence against charges that may arise.

Zuma's legal team is focusing on the key element of the Scorpions case against Shaik an encrypted fax allegedly sent by Alain Thetard, local head of French arms company Thales, which was know then as Thomsons CSF.

The fax allegedly suggests that Shaik asked Thales for an annual bribe of R500 000 on behalf of Zuma. This was allegedly in exchange for political support to derail investigations into SA's R40bn arms deal.

Zuma's lawyers are focusing on the fax because demonstrating either that it does not exist or that it is in some way flawed is likely to improve their chances that charges will never be brought against their client.

But yesterday all MacDonald would confirm was that the deputy president would bring a court application for the release of the original, handwritten version of the fax. "We have no knowledge that this document exists," MacDonald said.

The application would be brought in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, MacDonald said. The deputy president had already applied for a number of documents in terms of the act, and these had been supplied by the Scorpions. They included both a typed version of the fax, written in French, and an English translation.

But the application would now seek full implementation of the requirements of the act, which Zuma's lawyers contend would include the release of the original hand-written version.

By bringing the application, Zuma's lawyers hope that the Scorpions will be unable to produce the original document. If so, they may be able to demonstrate a break in the chain of liability that allegedly connects Zuma to allegations against Shaik.

 * What a dangerous legal tactic for someone not actually charged.

If the PAIA application to the public body releases everything to the Applicant, then it can also release every gory bit of evidence, prima facie and otherwise, into the public domain. Then there may be no other option but to press charges. The advice is, as always, when caught in quicksand, keep very, very still.

With acknowledgements to Tim Cohen and Business Day.