Is This the Proof of Zuma Bribe?
Notorious fax is the real thing, says former secretary at arms company
With understated drama and much caution, the state has produced its so-called smoking gun linking Durban businessman Schabir Shaik, deputy president Jacob Zuma and a R1-million bribe from an arms company.
A note handwritten in French by Alain Thetard, head of South African operations for French arms company Thomson-CSF, its typed version and its translation were provisionally admitted into evidence in the Durban High Court yesterday.
Shaik's legal team have given notice that they will contest the admissibility of the documents.
The fax appears to record an arrangement to make a R500 000-a-year payment to Zuma in exchange for Zuma's protection during probes into South Africa's multimillion-rand arms deal, and his "permanent support for future projects" (see fax right).
Thetard previously said, in another court, that he crumpled the note and discarded it. However, his former secretary yesterday testified that Thetard gave her the note to type up into a fax form, and at his request, she sent it in encrypted form to the Paris head office of Thomson, now known as Thint.
The court also heard that Shaik, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and fraud, will admit that he had indeed had a meeting with Zuma and Thetard in March 2000. *
This was disclosed earlier by his senior counsel, Francois van Zyl SC, during cross-examination of Shaik's former personal assistant, Bianca Singh.
The now notorious fax was handed to court during the testimony of Sue Delique, former secretary to Thetard.
Accompanied by a female bodyguard who cautiously surveyed the court, Delique focused her attention, while giving evidence, either on Judge Hilary Squires or advocate Billy Downer SC, who is leading the state's case.
Shaik, who looked considerably more relaxed than he did when his own secretary gave evidence, sat back in his by-now characteristic pose with the earpiece of his glasses in his mouth.
Delique told the court she began working for Thetard in January 2000, but was not happy and almost immediately began looking for another job.
She said Thetard, Shaik and Zuma had a meeting in March 2000.
At this time Shaik's company Nkobi Holdings and Thomson were partners in the Prodiba joint venture which had won the tender to produce South Africa's credit-card driving licences. They were also partners in a successful bid for an arms-deal subcontract.
Delique said when Thetard returned from Durban, where she assumed the meeting took place, he gave her a handwritten note to type in French, and she did so. She also faxed it, in encrypted form, to Yann de Jomaron and Jean-Pierre Perrier from Thomson-CSF. Both were senior members of the company who dealt with operations in Africa.
Delique said Thetard kept a copy of the typed version of this letter. She kept the handwritten note on her desk.
When she resigned at the end of March, she was asked to leave the building. Delique said she feared for her safety and just grabbed documents on her desk before she left.
She subsequently discovered that she had taken the handwritten note, as well as the fax. In September this year she also discovered that she still had the disk on which she had saved the typed copy of the letter.
Under cross-examination by Van Zyl, Delique said it was a coincidence that she grabbed the fax when she left.
"Lo and behold, between those were the handwritten fax by Alain Thetard," Van Zyl said sceptically.
Delique did say that she did not fax a copy of the Thetard letter to Shaik.
"As far as you know he was unaware of it," Van Zyl said.
"I did not fax it to him," she replied.
The trial continues today. * Jeremy Michaels reports that Zuma's spokesperson, Zanele Mngadi, said last night that the Deputy President's office would not comment on the fax being presented to court, as the matter was sub judice.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and The Star.
* This meeting has until now been denied, especially by Zuma - but its amazing how the very recent discovery of an Nkobi diary re-invigorates the truth.
As Frank Zappa (was it him?) said: "the torture never stops, the torture never stops".