Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2004-10-15 Reporter: Iaine Harper Reporter: Sapa

'Shaik in it for the Money'




Date 2004-10-15


Iaine Harper, Sapa

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Durban - Schabir Shaik's Nkobi Holdings was not an empowerment company, merely an enrichment vehicle for Shaik himself, Durban High Court was told on Friday.

This was the opinion of the State's first witness, Professor Themba Sono, at the end of week one of Shaik's fraud and corruption trial.

Shaik, who has spent the week listening attentively to proceedings and weathering a storm of media interest, said when the court rose shortly before 11:00 on Friday that he did not want to comment.

However, he added: "I'm very relaxed and looking forward to beginning my Ramadan".

Ramadan is a month-long annual fast undertaken by Muslims around the world and is expected to start in South Africa on Saturday.

Sono, who was cross-examined for a day and a half, was a former executive director of Nkobi Holdings and is a member of the Gauteng legislature.

He told the court: "Nkobi Holdings was a Schabir Shaik's enrichment vehicle."

Sono said he constantly asked who was being empowered at Nkobi.

"Whether it was an empowerment company, I don't believe it," he said.

According to Sono, foreign companies wanting to invest in South Africa were not interested in black economic empowerment but in "black folks" who could open doors.

He said Shaik was a "crony capitalist", someone who depended on the government for business opportunities.

"That's why I say he is a political entrepreneur and not a wealth entrepreneur."

Prosecutor Billy Downer asked Sono if he was knowledgeable about the "informal process" of bidding for contracts.

Sono said he was an active member of the Gauteng legislature's standing committee on public accounts and that it was often involved in investigating tender irregularities.

Sono described the informal process as one in which there were no records and where, in order to speed up a particular contract, the matter would be passed from one "critical and influential person to another."

Sono denied he resigned from Nkobi because he had wanted to join Lebone Technologies, a Pretoria-based company vying for a R10m contract to provide IT services to the SA Police Service.

Cross-examined about an incident at the end of 1997 when he lent Nkobi R75 000 to cover bounced salary cheques, he said Shaik had been in Europe at the time.

When Shaik returned he had said: "Themba, my friend, you are a dear brother, you have done something for me that even my brothers have never, ever, done before."

Sono said: "I said: 'what are friends for?' "

The court adjourned before tea break on Friday morning.

National prosecuting authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema declined to say who the State would put in the witness box on Monday, but added: "But, it's going to be exciting."

With acknowledgements to Iaine Harper, Sapa and News24.