A Man Faced With 'Mickey Mouse Charges'
Schabir Shaik began by talking about his relationship with Deputy President Jacob Zuma. He stated that he was Zuma's special financial adviser, and has been so since the time Zuma was MEC for economic affairs and tourism in KwaZulu Natal. Shaik said that he continued in that capacity when Zuma became deputy president.
Q Would you say that you are close friends?
A Yes, we are indeed very, very close - our relationship had started way before, in the old apartheid days.
Q It has been alleged that you have been supporting the deputy president in numerous ways, that you've been helping him financially, you've been helping him pay off bonds on properties he owns, and that you help pay school fees for his children. Is any of this true?
A This is part of the investigation that the Scorpions are currently conducting. While I can assure you there is nothing untoward in whatever assistance I may or may not have provided to the deputy president, I would really appreciate it if we could await the outcome of the discussions I had with the Scorpions on this matter, and I think the facts will speak for themselves.
Q You've been also accused of relying heavily on your political connections not only with the deputy president to promote your business interests, and particularly to secure government contracts. Would you say that that is true?
A I can categorically deny that. Let me give you some underlining reasons as to why I am so clear about this.
When the deputy president was in the province of KwaZulu Natal as the minister of economic affairs and tourism, our group had not even considered going into tourism, or venturing into those opportunities.
Equally, when the deputy president, in his capacity as MEC, was part of a committee of transport and the airport company and the decision to design and relocate the Durban International Airport to La Mercy, we tendered for that consultancy work in conjunction with an international group called Tarmac.
We lost that tender, and that's why I cannot see how knowing the deputy president would have furthered my ambitions business-wise, speaking in this province.
At a national level, I certainly don't call upon my relationship with him either as a comrade or as a friend to leverage any influence to anybody in the government.
I don't think he would accept that. He would find such things distasteful, personally. And the basis of our relationship has not been founded on what we can gain from each other.
Q It has been said, in fact by Themba Sono, one of the former directors of Nkobi Holdings, which is your company, that you used to boast that you did not need to come up with the money because you would be able to secure the contracts as a result of these political connections.
A Let us apply our minds to what Mr Sono has allegedly said. Where on God's Earth, and certainly in South Africa, can you land a contract without having to put in financing? On the N3TC, we had to raise R4,1-million both off-shore debt and local debt with local equity and off-shore equity.
We had to get a whole host of international and domestic investors.
Because if it's easy for me just to land a contract that takes two years to put together if it's so easy just to get the finance I can assure you that's not the case.
Even with the (contract for the credit card-type) driving licences, now that we are in our second production period, how many institutions were very concerned in funding us in this regard?
And therefore I cannot see the correlation.
Q Let's turn to specifics. The story which is dominating the front pages of South Africa's newspapers, the allegations of corruption surrounding the government's arms procurement deal: you were present at a meeting with the French defence company, Thales, and its executive Alain Thetard on March 11 2000. The deputy president was also at that meeting, and it is alleged that he solicited a bribe of R500 000 from Thales in return for political protection over the arms deal, and that you played a key role as facilitator. This goes to the heart of the investigation. Can you tell us whether the deputy president asked for any money from Thales at any time in return for political favours?
A There are several inaccuracies in what you have said. For example, you know that the deputy president said he had not met with Thetard on September 11.
Q Did he meet with Thetard at any time?
A Yes, he would have met with Thetard and many other businessmen in his capacity as minister of economic affairs and tourism. It is his job to meet with business people and encourage foreign direct investments in the country.
Did the deputy president solicit these funds? I think that is equally blasphemous, if I can use that word, and despicable.
Because if the Scorpions contend that there are three parties in a meeting, having a discussion on several issues, and one of those issues allegedly is financing, and the three parties then go their separate ways, and one party records his understanding of that meeting and sends that recording off to his bosses or peers in France, as it appears to be, why should the other two parties be in agreement of what he wrote?
Unless he copied to the deputy president and to myself and said: This is a minute of that, an extract of that meeting we had the other day, if you can recall Would you agree that this is an accurate reflection of the minute? If you think it so, please sign it off'.
Q So what you are saying effectively is that Thetard's memo to his boss was in fact a misunderstanding of what had transpired at the meeting?
A Well, undoubtedly. I mean, these are some of the facts that we are going to be bringing out in our court case, and that's certainly the issue, we are contending so I mean why doesn't Bulelani, why don't you ask Mr Bulelani if he has been to France, to meet with Mr Thetard? If he hasn't met with Thetard, has he met with Thetard's legal advisers? What was the information that Thetard's legal advisers gave to Bulelani? Why doesn't he then conclude the investigation based on that? Why does he rather choose to believe a foreigner, over what he calls "comrades", "criminals like the deputy president". Q As I understand it, the Scorpions and Bulelani Ngcuka are, in fact, attempting to press or pursue those particular questions with the deputy president. Have they succeeded in getting an answer out of yourself?
A I was very prepared, as you know, and I've said it on several occasions. I went with my legal advisers, senior counsel, lawyer, to (inaudible) answer the questions which have always plagued the Scorpions, and I can understand that the Scorpions are requiring certain reasonable explanations to not just Thetard's letter but to a range of issues.
But what I cannot understand is that they want to be judge and jury. I cannot go forward to the Scorpions and say that I am now prepared and happy to answer these questions, and they listen to what I have to say, then take a decision that what I'm saying is not honest, not accurate, not truthful, and then charge me.
And that is why I differ with Judge MacKlaren on this matter.
I would have liked to have an independent judge or magistrate on this matter.
Why are the Scorpions questioning me? I would like an independent arbitrator to sit on this. You cannot be asking me questions, soliciting my responses and then, because of other agendas that I believe are parading in the Scorpions, you then charge me.
So we challenge the law. So it becomes now a legal challenge. Because if I don't challenge the law, assuming you have sources that are giving you information that you want to protect, the Scorpions can slap you with a Section 28 and you cannot remain silent.
Q How much did African Defence Systems, (ADS) of which you are a director, get out of the successful bid for a slice of the arms deal contract, which was awarded to Thales?
A The total bid was in the order of R60-billion, if you take the future of currency prices into account. Currently, you are working roughly on R30-billion, for example. Of the R30-billion, there were at least 11 packages that defence contractors had to put in, either in air defence systems, line defence systems or naval defence systems.
Thales, being the second largest in the world, would have enough capacity to tender for all 11 packages, and possibly win as many as they could.
They are the number two in the world. The number one in the world, Lockheed Martin, refused to trade with South Africa, so the gap was open.
How is it that Thales only wins one aspect of the naval combat systems, loses the air defence, loses line defence, but wins just one aspect, and that aspect translates to, in the order of R1,6-billion, that comes into what we call the German frigate consortium, of which, of the R1,6-billion, a large portion of that, at least 80% of that 60% or so flows to companies in France; the 400-million or 600-million remains in ADS in South Africa and the balance flows to local contractors, including Richard Young's company?
Q That is in fact the answer that I was looking for just how much ADS got out of the deal that was awarded to Thales.
A In a greater context of the defence project, if I have a brother who will just pick up the phone and say well, my brother is involved in defence with Thales, make sure they win this contract, why would I go for R400-million when there's R30-billion? I'm gonna take a lot of heat. Let me take the heat for R30-billion To suggest that my brother will just pick up the phone and make things work would really be naive and not understanding the procurement processes in South Africa. A total naive view about that.
As you know, the ministers Jeff Radebe, Alec Erwin and Trevor Manuel have come out in support of this process and said they could not find anything that would suggest remotely that Shabir Shaik or Chippy Shaik unduly influenced the process so that his brother's company could win the contract.
Q Nonetheless, your brother's position and the fact that the Scorpions discovered cabinet minutes, which should not have been in your possession on your property, have raised the question as to your relationship, and perhaps the influence that your brother might have used in securing this contract?
A You know, the issue of cabinet minutes, when the matter gets to court, I can assure you, the nation will be laughing. Those individuals, those news media that have kept saying that this is cabinet minutes of the meeting in fact, I would have the last laugh.
However, remember my charges were that I personally stole cabinet minutes of meetings. The third charge was that I used minutes of meetings to shape my tender and win the contracts that were giving the so-called competitive technology edge.
The fourth charge, after doing all of the other three, I fail to hand this document over to Armscor, Denel or any government agency. The fifth charge possession this is mickey mouse charges.
You know what mickey mouse and donald duck are? This is what these charges are.
Because the contracts were signed in December 1999, these were so-called minutes of meetings from March 2000.
So it really tells you if you are intelligent.
How could I possibly use cabinet minutes of meetings in March 2000 to shape a contract that was signed in December 1999?
With acknowledgement to The Star.