Day One of Shaik's 'Epic Battle'
Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin
Sunday night was the proverbial dark and stormy night, well almost, and at the Durban High Court "soon to be the scene of an epic legal battle" the only signs of life were television technicians laying down cables.
A lukewarm wind flapped the palm trees framing the tiny colonial-style court house on Durban's Esplanade where Schabir Shaik was expected to appear on Monday.
For probably the last time in two months there was sufficient parking right in front of the court, with only a white plastic bag being rustled across the tarmac.
Somewhere in the expanse of city behind the court, the legal generals were hunched over their papers, or maybe they were all just having a drink.
The Shaik clan, including brothers Mo and Yunis, have gathered in the city to rally around their brother, Schabir.
Schabir Shaik's trial on two main charges of corruption and a third of fraud is expected to begin in Court A.
The charges relate to what the State has described as the "general corrupt relationship" between Schabir Shaik, his companies and Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
The State alleges that one of Shaik's companies, Nkobi Holdings, made a number of payments, totalling at least R1,2 million, to Zuma in exchange for his influence and the use of his "name".
The State further alleges that Shaik solicited a bribe of R1-million for Zuma from the French arms company now called Thint. Shaik has not yet been asked to plead to these charges.
Thint was accused number 11 in the trial (the first 10 being Shaik, Nkobi Holdings and eight companies in his group), but the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions indicated in an earlier application this year that it will honour a promise by its former chief Bulelani Ngcuka to withdraw the charges.
The company is represented by advocate Kessie Naidu SC, who was the leader of evidence at the Hefer Commission.
The Hefer Commission was the previous public encounter of those involved in the ongoing saga sparked by allegations of corruption in the country's multi-billion rand arms deal.
However, the first 48 hours of this epic saga may prove to be anti-climactic for everyone. Indications are that evidence of the first witnesses will only be led on Wednesday.
Monday's proceedings are expected to kick off with the withdrawal of charges against Thint, followed by e.tv's historic application to broadcast the trial.
If the television channel is successful, it would be the first time in the history of the country that a criminal trial is broadcast.
Also expected in court are Zuma's legal team. Zuma is mentioned in the charge sheet, but Ngcuka decided not to charge him with Shaik.
At this stage it is not known if he will be giving evidence.
At the weekend a Markinor pole found that 35 percent of South Africans believed that the allegations against Zuma are an attempt to discredit him.
The trial before Judge Hillary Squires was to start at 10:00am.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Billy Downer SC, assisted by advocate Anton Steynberg and Santhos Manilall, appear for the State.
Francois van Zyl SC instructed by Reeves Parsee appear for Shaik.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin and the Daily News.