Zuma Investigator's Life of Fear
Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Andre Jurgens
Lawyer given bodyguards after break-ins and a troubling visit
The advocate leading the Scorpions' probe into Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik was assigned bodyguards after a "campaign of intimidation" against her during a crucial stage of the arms deal investigation last month.
The senior investigator, advocate Gerda Ferreira, was harassed by "a person or persons unknown" , according to affidavits submitted by the Scorpions to the Pretoria High Court - where Zuma is locked in a legal battle with arms deal investigators.
The Scorpions have charged Zuma's financial adviser, Shabir Shaik, with corruption, fraud, theft and contravening the Income Tax Act in connection with the arms deal. But National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka declined to prosecute Zuma even though he said there was "prima facie" evidence against him.
Zuma, who is trying to clear his name, has asked the court to make the Scorpions produce a handwritten fax that allegedly implicates him and a French weapons company in a bribery scandal.
Scorpions advocate Leonard McCarthy replied to the court this week, saying the letter would not be given to Zuma because that could endanger witnesses in the Shaik trial.
Ferreira, who headed the probe into allegations of corruption and bribery against Zuma and Shaik, was "subjected to intimidation and harassment, which we reasonably suspect to be linked to her involvement in the arms deal investigation", he said.
Ferreira's home was repeatedly "unlocked" and a man posing as a "journalist" got into her office.
Ferreira, who has resigned from the Scorpions, said in an affidavit that a home patio door was "tampered with on numerous occasions" from August 14 to 17. "Despite the fact that the door had been locked, I frequently found it open," she said.
On August 18 she locked the door and went to bed "When I got up at 0430 the next morning, I immediately went to check the door, and found it unlocked," she said.
Her handbag, purse, money, sunglasses, notebook and other valuables were still on the dining room table.
"The fact that somebody entered my apartment during the night while I was asleep, caused me to feel very vulnerable. The investigation in question was at a very sensitive stage. We were questioning a number of witnesses who were implicated by the evidence already obtained and I was busy drafting the final report recommending a prosecution against various persons and entities, including [Zuma]," said her affidavit.
The Scorpions took "security measures" and assigned her "close protectors". They also locked her home doors but found them unlocked later.
The affidavit also described how a "stranger" arrived unexpectedly at Ferreira's office on August 26 (three days after a Scorpions press conference).
"A gentleman entered my office and explained that he was from the President's office at the Union Buildings .... he was there to discuss the Shaik matter, and he was looking for a file he previously handed over to the Directorate of Special Operations. On my request he provided me with his name and contact details."
But the stranger had given security guards a different name and posed as a journalist to get to the office, she said. The alleged acts of intimidation have been investigated by the Scorpions. She did not disclose the outcome.
McCarthy's affidavit explained that witnesses in the Shaik trial were scared, reluctant and could not be identified.
Releasing the handwritten letter, which Zuma wants, could lead to potential witnesses being identified, intimidated or coerced, he argued.
"We had sound reasons, and still do have sound reasons, for not providing [Zuma] with a copy of the handwritten version....The criminal prosecution of Shaik and others is set to commence shortly...the original handwritten version of the encrypted fax is an important item of evidence in those proceedings," he said.
McCarthy stressed that the Scorpions were in no way suggesting that Zuma would wish harm to come to state witnesses. Media reporting on the letter, if it were released, could expose the identity of the witnesses, he said.
McCarthy said "the investigation concerning the arms deal is not closed."
He denied suggestions by Zuma that the Scorpions may have incorrectly translated the fax. "The meaning is clear," he said. He insisted the handwritten fax existed.
McCarthy described some of the allegations concerning the conduct of the Scorpions, made in Zuma's affidavit, as "scurrilous and scandalous". He denied that investigators had unlawfully gained access to Zuma's bank accounts.
Zuma said he had "never solicited or accepted a bribe or acted corruptly".
The court battle between Zuma and the Scorpions is scheduled to continue in Pretoria tomorrow.
Meanwhile Justice Minister Penuell Maduna announced on Thursday that a ministerial committee would investigate allegations published by City Press newspaper that National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy. Ngcuka has denied the allegations.
With acknowledgement to Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Andre Jurgens and the Sunday Times.