Publication: Saturday Argus Issued: Date: 2004-10-02 Reporter: Angela Quintal

de Lille to be State Witness in Corruption, Fraud Trial of Schabir Shaik



Saturday Argus

Date 2004-10-02


Angela Quintal

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Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, who first made public allegations of corruption in the arms deal, will be a state witness in the trial of Durban businessman Schabir Shaik but the jury is still out on whether Deputy President Jacob Zuma will be subpoenaed.

It is not clear whether Zuma will be called as a state witness to testify against Shaik, his financial adviser, or whether the Scorpions will wait for the outcome of the trial to decide whether to charge the deputy president after all.

All Scorpions spokesman Sipho Ngwema would say yesterday was: "In focusing on this trial we will be guided by developments in the trial in terms of which decisions to take."

In a letter to Public Protector Lawrence Mushwana in March, Scorpions head Leonard McCarthy said the state had yet to decide whether to call Zuma as a witness. McCarthy also noted that the trial judge might wish to subpoena Zuma "if the interests of justice so dictate".

It was for this reason that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had declined to provide information to Mushwana about Zuma's replies to questions and why it believed the information was sub judice.

The deputy president's office was not available for comment.

De Lille, the leader of the Independent Democrats, said yesterday she had received the subpoena in September and would testify. She said ID Gauteng leader, Themba Sono, a former director of Shaik's Nkobi Holdings, had also been subpoenaed.

De Lille first made public in 1999 the allegations of corruption in the arms deal when she was a Pan Africanist Congress MP, after receiving a dossier from "concerned ANC MPs".

It is not the first time she has been subpoenaed in relation to the arms deal. She and PAC secretary-general Thami ka Plaatjie appeared before prosecuting authorities in May 2001 during the probe into the strategic defence package. De Lille said just as she had co-operated then she planned to do the same this time around.

IFP MP and former standing committee on public accounts chairman Gavin Woods said yesterday he too had been subpoenaed and was drafting an affidavit.

Woods said among the issues about which he expected to testify was a letter written to him by Zuma in January 2001, attacking the committee's investigation of the arms deal.

The trial begins in Durban on October 11. The Scorpions last year decided to prosecute Shaik on charges of corruption and fraud. Earlier NPA head Bulelani Ngcuka made a controversial statement that there was a prima facie case of corruption against the deputy president, but prospects of successful prosecution were not strong enough.

Zuma, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, lodged a complaint earlier this year with Mushwana, who subsequently ruled that Ngcuka's statement had infringed the deputy president's constitutional right to human dignity, causing him to be improperly prejudiced.

Shaik's corruption charges relate to a series of payments made for Zuma's benefit between 1996 and 2002 totalling R1,25 million and to alleged solicitation of a R500 000 a year bribe from French defence company Thales.

A charge of fraud relates to the writing off of payments made by Shaik's Nkobi Group for his own benefit and allegedly for Zuma's.

With acknowledgements to Angela Quintal and Saturday Argus.