Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2005-03-04 Reporter: Wendy Jasson da Costa

Shaik Hearing Adjourned Early






Date 2005-03-04


Wendy Jasson da Costa


After a heavy week of cross-examination, fraud and corruption accused Schabir Shaik pleaded sick on Friday afternoon, resulting in an early adjournment by Judge Hillary Squires.

However the judge ruled that courtroom A would start its sittings half an hour earlier every day next week to make up for lost time.

Friday's proceedings started with a ruling by Squires that the state could introduce a new document as evidence.

When prosecutor Billy Downer and his team first made the submission on Thursday afternoon, defence advocate Francois van Zyl objected, saying the document now known as BBB1 and 2 should have been handed in during the state's presentation of its case.

BBB1 and 2 is a letter which was taken from the computers of Nkobi Holdings, Shaik's group of companies.

Although unsigned, it appears to be a letter from Deputy President Jacob Zuma to Tan Sri Halim Saad, chairman of the Malaysian group Renong.

In the letter, Zuma, who was the MEC for Economic Affairs and Tourism at the time, purportedly writes (ungrammatically): "I am indeed heartened by your request to resolve an impasse which has been both complicated over time some by seemingly important events yet others by personalities lacking a thorough understanding of both the socio-political and socio-economic transformations in our country."

He continues by saying he had known Schabir Shaik and Mzi Khumalo for a long time because he had worked with them during the anti-apartheid struggle.

"I am indeed considered by both these persons as their political commissar and therefore in a position to comment objectively *1 of their present status and involvements."

According to the letter Zuma is responding to Saad's request to sort out issues around finding a suitable black empowerment partner for Durban's Point project.

Khumalo had ousted Shaik in winning the empowerment stake in the project. Downer said this document [BBB1 and 2] appeared to be a draft of a similar letter handed in as evidence during the trial.

He said that BBB1 and 2 were part of the state's entire case docket which had been forwarded to the defence electronically, although it was not specifically dealt with in the trial.

Squires on Friday ruled that to his surprise Downer was correct that the evidence had already been submitted to court and was therefore admissible. He was also surprised by the role technology had played in the case.

After getting time to consult with his counsel, Shaik's cross-examination continued but he insisted that he did not recall the document or whether it was authored by him.

However, he admitted that he was the only person in Nkobi involved in the Point Development Project.

Shaik also agreed with Downer when he pointed out that there were several similarities between the Zuma letter and the new document.

"There are several spelling errors and misuse of words," Shaik also pointed out. He also told the court that the language usage was different from his.

"Do you agree that BBB1 and 2 (the new document) is in some way a draft?" asked Downer.

"I don't want you to get into arguments. It takes unnecessary time," the judge snapped at Downer.

Later Shaik said, "I do not recall the contents, nor have I written this letter."

Shaik had previously denied knowledge of but not disputed QQ11 and 12 a letter written by Zuma to Saad and which the state says is "remarkably similar" to the draft ruled admissible by Squires.

In the new document Zuma also writes: "In particular, I am indeed heartened by the group Nkobi Holdings (Pty) Ltd of which Mr Schabir Shaik is a part of, as I believe this group is truly committed to the embodiment of black economic empowerment."

Downer later moved to the contents of two affidavits by former Renong director David Wilson in which he said that it appeared as if a meeting called between him, Shaik and Zuma was held to intimidate him so that Shaik also got a share in the Point Project.

Downer: "You wanted Zuma to punt Nkobi?"

Shaik: "I disagree."

Squires: "You dispute there was a meeting at all?"

Shaik: "Yes."

Squires: "Are you saying that Zuma wasn't punting for your company at all?"

Shaik: "I dispute the fact that Zuma was just punting for my company."

All these documents relate to the state's charge of general corruption against Shaik. It alleges that he bankrolled Zuma in exchange for the use of his political influence to further his business interests.

The trial continues.

With acknowledgement to Wendy Jasson da Costa and Sapa.

*1 As objective as a Son of the Earth might be.