Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2004-10-19 Reporter: Wendy Jasson da Costa

Shaik Sought Arms Deal Damage Control : Witness






Date 2004-10-19


Wendy Jasson da Costa


"After that Mr Shaik said they needed to discuss damage control with regard to newspaper articles on the arms deal," she said.

Shaik asked Thetard if he was up to date with developments on the arms deal and, when the Frenchman said he was not, handed him the cuttings file.

"Shaik said if the Heath Investigating Unit continues we are going to be under an amount of pressure and if a certain ANC [member] -I cant remember his name - were to open his mouth we would be in real trouble."

The unit, headed by retired judge Willem Heath, had been given a dossier of allegations by politician Patricia de Lille and wanted President Thabo Mbeki to proclaim an investigation into the deal.

Heath was subsequently left out of an investigation by the National Director of Public Prosecutions, the Auditor General and the Public Protector.

At that point Shaik looked at her and said, "I hope you're not minuting all this".

She stopped writing.

It was clear the other two people were uncomfortable with her presence. "Mr Shaik asked me to leave the room and I did so."

Later Singh, a married mother, went to Shaik's bungalow to hand over some documents and an "incident" took place.*

However when prosecutor Billy Downer asked her to describe it briefly Shaik's advocate Francois Van Zyl objected, saying it was irrelevant to the charges against Shaik.

"I don't wish to pursue the detail; it was an incident of a personal nature," Downer said.

"That is correct," Singh said.

Singh said she left the next day on the first available flight home and she left the folder containing the minutes at the resort's reception desk and asked that they be given to Shaik.

She never spoke to Shaik again and never returned to Nkobi Holdings.

One of Shaik's brothers phoned to ask if she was "okay". Shaik's lawyer Anand Moodley phoned to say a contract would be drawn up between Singh, Shaik and Kobifin, an Nkobi subsidiary, so that she could be paid for her services.

Moodley also told her Shaik insisted on a confidentiality clause because she knew too much about his relationship with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Downer also took her page by page through her Nkobi office diary for the year 2000 which she handed to the Scorpions a week ago, and records of meetings between Shaik and Thetard, and Shaik and Zuma.

She said she had forgotten about the diary and had stumbled upon it when she was going through boxes at her home looking for memorabilia of school friends.

She also told the court that she once overheard Shaik asking Zuma for help in securing a slice of the arms deal.

She said at one point late in 1998 she was in Shaik's office when his cellphone rang.

She gathered that the caller was his brother Chippy, then head of acquisitions in the Department of Defence and the man directing the SA National Defence Force's multi-billion rand arms procurement programme.

There was a brief conversation and Shaik told Chippy not to worry.

After ending the call Shaik dialled a new number and said: "Hello my brother, hello JZ". Singh said Shaik always referred to Zuma as "JZ", he said. "He said 'Chippy's under pressure and we really need your help to land this deal'," Singh said.

At the time Zuma was KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic affairs and tourism, and deputy president of the African National Congress.

Singh said Shaik was definitely referring to the arms deal because it was the only project he referred to as a "deal".

She also recalled an incident in which Shaik asked her to take R500 from the office petty cash and R200 from his own pocket in an envelope to Zuma at Durban airport.

Singh said Shaik once told her she would need to be at his "beck and call" and went on to say that was how his relationship with various ministers worked.

"He said he has to carry a jar of Vaseline because he gets (*u**e*) all the time but that's okay because he gets what he wants and they get what they want."*

Throughout the day's testimony Shaik moved about in his seat, at times shaking his head in disagreement or using neon pink and green markers to highlight the notes he had made.

At times he held his Muslim prayer beads.

With acknowledgement to Ben Maclennan, Wendy Jasson da Costa and Sapa.

* He tried very hard to get carnal knowledge of her. But this was only what he wanted and not what she wanted. So she ran away (literally) from his bungalow back to her hotel room in the main block. Shaikh tried to stop her making external telephone calls from the hotel, telling the hotel switchboard that she could not afford to pay for them. Hotel management intervened and had a guard posted outside her hotel room for the entire night. She caught a plane back to SA the next day.

Shaikh offered her an employment termination agreement for R50 000 (not R40 000), but he deducted R10 000 that she had previously loaned from Nkobi Holdings, so she netted R40 000. She had to agree to a non-disclosure clause (apparently with a claw-back provision), but such a restriction is invalid regarding the giving of evidence in a court of law.

But maybe he'll institute a civil action against her for breach of contract. If she loses, consideration should be given to compensating her out of the Deputy President's Moral Regeneration Fund or the National Director's Anti-Corruption Fund.

Whatta boy! whatta girl!