Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2004-10-14 Reporter: Wendy Jasson Da Costa Reporter: Ben Maclennan

Shaik Discussed Arms Opportunities in 1996 : Sono






Date 2004-10-14


Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan


Schabir Shaik discussed corvettes with his director Themba Sono as far back as 1996, years before government announced its intention to purchase the warships, the Durban High Court heard on Thursday.

Sono, the State's first witness in Shaik's fraud and corruption trial, said these discussions led Schaik into insisting that Nkobi employ electronic experts.

Sono said Shaik was aware that South Africa's military equipment was due for an upgrade, and of the opportunities that existed if he positioned himself for these upgrades.

This was why Shaik contacted the Thomson arms company, Sono said.

It was only in 1999* that Cabinet announced its intention to purchase new corvettes, aircraft, helicopters and submarines.

Shaik's Nkobi group ended up having a shared interest with Thomson in a multi-million rand tender for the corvette programme.

Sono said he was also aware that South Africa would soon be buying military equipment, because he (Sono) had friends in government "like Tony Yengeni".

Yengeni was the chairman of the parliamentary defence committee which oversaw the arms deal. He was arrested on fraud and corruption charges in 2001, and was later sentenced to four years' jail. The court found he had accepted a bribe from a bidder in the arms acquisition process, and had then tried to cover it up.

Shaik's vision was to turn Nkobi into the "Murray and Roberts of South Africa... and even the Oppenheimers", Sono said.

Earlier Sono said that the "non-sunny side" of Shaik's personality was what made him resign as director of Shaik's Nkobi Holdings.

Sono told the court he took exception to the "boorish and autocratic manner" with which Shaik treated some of his colleagues.

He said Shaik had two personalities -- the "sunny side" and the other "non-sunny side".

He said Shaik repeatedly boasted of his "political connectivity" with Deputy President Jacob Zuma in discussions with potential business partners.

Shaik faces two counts of corruption and fraud relating to payments made to Deputy President Jacob Zuma which the State alleges was a bribe.

With acknowledgements to Wendy Jasson Da Costa, Ben Maclennan and Sapa.

* Actually 1998