Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-10-04 Reporter:

The Shaik Case is Not So Much about the Court as the Corridors of Power



Business Day

Date 2004-10-04

Web Link


No, the arms scandal case due to open in Durban next week is not about Schabir Shaik. Nor is it about crime. It is all about politics.

It is about Deputy President Jacob Zuma and whether or not he will be able to keep his hat in the ring in the complex mating dance that is now under way to select President Thabo Mbeki's successor.

Zuma is not being charged even though we were told a prima facie case against him existed. Instead, it is Shaik who is on trial and in the process those orchestrating this fervently hope that Zuma's reputation will be dragged through the slime.

The so-called "mind-blowing" report of the auditors into payments allegedly made by Shaik to Zuma has been floating about for months. There has been nothing secret about it.

It was not "leaked" at the time because that was, apparently, thought inopportune. Yet a major Sunday newspaper this week carries elements of it and of the case against Shaik in overload. Two-and-a-half pages were devoted to it, a classic example of over-playing a hand.

In any event, the case against Shaik and, by extension, against Zuma must stand or fall in the court.

But what becomes ever clearer is that all this has a political thrust that is now undeniable. As one example, it is a given that the use of information obtained through warrants such as an individual's bank records in order to build a case, must be handled on the presumption of innocence. Section 30 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act is unequivocal about this.

This can hardly be said to have been rigorously followed in the Shaik matter.

On the contrary, the leaks that have come out of somewhere the Scorpions will deny it is them have been so carefully managed and so injudiciously placed as to raise all manner of issues.

If it was the prosecuting authority that orchestrated this, then hard questions should be asked. If the authority points fingers at the Scorpions, then it underlines yet again just why prosecutors should not be joined at the hip and in the same institution as those responsible for criminal investigations.

As another example if one were needed an observer need only look at the comment made about the Shaik case by Scorpion spokesman Sipho Ngwema.

He said: "We are taking no risks. We are making sure that our team will be working in a very secure and conducive environment for them to prosecute this case."

But it is not the job of the Scorpions to prosecute cases. It is its job to investigate them. That and nothing more. Period.

If ever anyone needed a reason why prosecutors and investigators must be kept apart, there it is.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions William Downer is now quoted as alleging that Zuma used his position to enrich himself and improperly benefited others. If that is to be used as the standard in judging politicians, we will have none left in this country and that goes for most, if not all, nations.

The moment a politician in power makes a decision, he is bound to be benefiting one or other or several individuals or interest groups.

Personal enrichment is different and invites an investigation into just who has enriched him or herself. If this is carried out with efficiency, I bet almost no one will escape censure.

This is indeed a defining moment for the country. We are dealing here with the legacy of the first head of public prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, whose shadow looms large. This is the ethic that he created and has bequeathed to us. The sooner we stick it in a laundromat, the better.

Meanwhile, Zuma needs to come out fighting. What we need to be informed of and he should know better than anyone is who stands to benefit if the attack on him proves successful.

Is it as those to whom I speak in the party believe a select group of the newly rich, or a select interest group anxious to defeat Zuma's candidacy before it even begins, or a dangerously powerful mix of both?

With acknowledgement to Business Day.