Publication: Pretoria News Date: 2005-03-02 Reporter: Estelle Ellis Reporter:

Shaik Admits to Another Exaggeration



Pretoria News




Estelle Ellis

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Durban businessman Schabir Shaik has admitted to exaggerating the length of his friendship with Deputy President Zuma in correspondence to a business associate.

There were none of Monday's fireworks in Shaik's fraud and corruption trial in the Durban High Court on Tuesday.

Instead, both Shaik and lead prosecutor Billy Downer SC seemed to have settled down into an easy but unemotional sparring of minds. Voices were raised once, smiles exchanged. Relative peace, it seemed, had for now descended on Durban High Court A.

"I am not in trouble. That is your view," a smiling Shaik at one stage said sweetly to Downer.

Shaik, who faced his second day of cross-examination on Tuesday, was confronted by Downer with a 1999 document claiming that he had known Zuma since 1974.

"Why did you say in 1999 that you had known Zuma since 1974?" he asked.

"I was referring to my family," Shaik answered.

"But you said 'I have known him since 1974'. That is not correct," Downer said.

"It is not," Shaik said.

The courtesies continued.

"I wish I had been given the opportunity to explain myself," Shaik said wistfully at one stage, referring to the Scorpions investigation which ultimately led to his trial.

"But we summonsed you," Downer replied, referring to their request that Shaik be questioned during the investigation.

Shaik: I had already been charged.

Downer: Not for this case. (Shaik had also faced a charge of the illegal possession of classified documents.)

Shaik: I could have been trapped into giving answers on other matters.

Downer: Why did you not offer to answer?

Shaik: Clearly I am the target of some conspiracy. Your approach would have been an adversarial one. So I said I would see you at court.

Following that exchange, Downer asked: "Where did you think Zuma would get the money to pay for Nkandla (his traditional homestead in KwaZulu-Natal)?"

The state infers from correspondence in its possession that Shaik and Zuma had pinned their hopes on bribe money the French had agreed to pay, to fund Nkandla. Shaik says the state is wrong, that Zuma and he were in fact corresponding about a donation to the Jacob Zuma Education Trust.

Downer: Did you discuss with Zuma how he was going to pay for it (Nkandla)?

Shaik: No.

Downer: But that should have been your first question.

Shaik: There are certain lines in our culture that you do not cross.

Downer: Please answer the question.

Shaik: I would not even think of asking such a question. It is not in our culture to ask.

Downer: Zuma committed himself to a substantial financial liability, despite the fact that he owed you a substantial amount of money.

Shaik: I cannot answer on behalf of Zuma. I am just happy the deputy president did not build a house in Sandton.

It was only with questions about Zuma helping Shaik's company sort out a share dispute with French arms company Thomson that Downer raised his voice.

Downer: The trouble is, Mr Shaik, that you assisted him (Zuma). The question is: could he have said no?

Shaik: Yes, he could have said no.

Squires: Why would Zuma tell Jean-Paul Perrier (of Thomson) that you were wrongly treated?

Shaik: I am sure he would have done it for anybody.

The trial continues.

With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and the Pretoria News.