Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-16 Reporter: Chantelle Benjamin

Zuma Alleges Errors in Arms-Deal Fax



Business Day

Date 2003-09-16


Chantelle Benjamin

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The typed version of a fax in French allegedly implicating Deputy President Jacob Zuma in bribery relating to the arms deal contains a number of errors, according to documents submitted to the Pretoria High Court by Zuma's lawyers.

The Scorpions have admitted that the document is central to their case against Zuma and his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, over allegations that they approached a French arms manufacturer for a R500 000 a year bribe for Zuma.

The investigative unit has refused to hand the original handwritten document written in French by Alain Thetard of Thomson CSF to Zuma, arguing that it would expose the identity of confidential sources and "impede the prosecution of Shaik and others".

Zuma launched and unsuccessful application in the high court yesterday under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for urgent access to both the typed and handwritten versions of the fax, arguing that the Scorpions are relying on an English translation of the encrypted fax, which is flawed.

Zuma said that the fax was necessary to defend himself.

The application failed because Zuma's legal team did not present a compelling argument for the case to be heard urgently.

"I believe it's vital to my interests that I cause the handwritten version of the encrypted fax to be thoroughly investigated," Zuma's application said.

"It may for example, transpire that contrary to what has been alleged under oath on behalf of the respondents, that the handwritten fax is not that of Thetard."

According to a report by Madeleine du Toit, a lecturer at the department of languages, at the University of Stellenbosch, the French document contains a number of errors, believed to have been made while typing it.

Du Toit said one of the paragraphs was open to various interpretations.

"One would not want to express a final opinion on the meaning of this paragraph without examining the original handwritten version," she said.

She said the person who typed the document had been negligent with punctuation and the use of the language.

Du Toit pointed out some errors in the English translation, which were mainly topographic.

She said that the first sentence in the translation should read : "Following my discussion with S. Shaik of Durban" instead of "our discussion".

Investigating director of the directorate of special operations, Leonard McCarthy refuted claims made by Zuma that the encrypted fax could be misinterpreted.

"The meaning is clear," he said. He insisted that the handwriting was Thetard's, and objected to insinuations that the unit had not handed the original document to Zuma because they did not have it in their possession, or that there had been any "improper" behaviour on their part.

"I emphasise that the English / French typed versions of the encrypted fax are based on a handwritten version, which document exists and continues to remain in our possession," said McCarthy.

The French translation makes reference to meeting "JZ", and the same initials are used throughout the fax, alongside that of "SS".

With acknowledgements to Chantelle Benjamin and the Business Day.