'I Knew too Much About Shaik, Zuma Dealings'
Estelle Ellis, Sapa
Durban - Fraud and corruption accused Schabir Shaik's former assistant Bianca Singh told the high court here yesterday that she had to sign a confidentiality clause on leaving his employ because she knew too much about his relationship with Jacob Zuma.
Singh had spent her first 10 minutes in court listening as senior special investigator Johan du Plooy explained the process of giving evidence.
A slight, pretty woman with dark hair, she faded into the background with the arrival of the Shaik clan, most wearing red ties and loudly sorting out their mineral water, seats and cellphones before court started. She was then called to the stand to testify but not before their eyes met briefly.
"My name is Bianca Singh. I was a personal assistant at Nkobi Holdings. I am giving evidence after I was subpoenaed to go to the Scorpions' offices. I started working for Mr Shaik in 1996. I met him while I was out with my family and my boyfriend for pizza. Mr Shaik approached me. He asked if I was looking for a job. He gave me his business card. He said I must come for an interview. I went to his offices and had the interview. I did not even have a CV, but after the interview they asked when I could start. I was offered a job as a receptionist. I had no qualifications. It was only six months after I passed matric. It was in June, 1996.
"My job description said I was directly responsible to Mr Shaik. I came to know about the projects that Nkobi was involved in and I was present at some of the discussions held.
"Deputy President Jacob Zuma was quite close to Mr Shaik. They would speak on the phone and (he would) come to visit.
"In Mr Shaik's cupboard, there were two red files. Mr Shaik told me to open them. They were kept behind the mirrored sliding doors. These files contained information on Mr Zuma. Mr Shaik had arranged for a bank account for Mr Zuma to be opened. Money was transferred into this account.
"After I was promoted to personal assistant, Mr Shaik said that I had to be there for him and he would be there for me.
"In late 1998, Mr Shaik's brother Chippy phoned him. I knew that Chippy was involved in the arms deal. I heard him say: 'Don't worry Chippy, don't worry'. After he put the phone down he phoned another number. I heard him say: 'Hello, my brother, hello JZ. Chippy is under pressure. We really need your help to land this deal.'
"I left Nkobi in March 1999. Mr Shaik would often embarrass me in front of big clients. He would scream at me. This happened on a number of occasions ... I could not take it any more.
"I returned to Nkobi in 2000. I heard Mr Shaik had changed. I heard he had become holy. I was pregnant with my second son and told him that I don't want him to treat me like (he used to).
"One day Mr Shaik had gone to play golf. He phoned and said that he could not get hold of his wife. He asked if I would phone her and ask her to tape the (Standing Committee on Public Accounts) inquiry into the arms deal. It was on television and Chippy was being questioned. I did what he asked me to do.
"The next day I asked if his wife had taped it. He said, 'Yes, but they are focusing on the wrong person'. When he phoned to ask me to phone his wife, his voice sounded worried.
"Last week I remembered I still had Mr Shaik's diary for 2000.
When I was summonsed to give evidence I did not tell the Scorpions about the diary because I had not remembered about it. It was only last week ... that I found the diary.
"On November 7, 2000, Mr Shaik and I left for Mauritius. He wanted me to go with him to advance my career and to minute the meetings. Mr Shaik said not to tell anyone at the office, but I did tell my colleagues.
"Before we left Mr Shaik asked me not to forget to take the file with the newspaper clippings on the arms deal. The next day we had a meeting at Thomson-CSF's offices in Port Louis, Mauritius.
"Alain Thetard and another gentleman from Thomson-CSF were surprised to see me. My role was to take the minutes. First they discussed foreign exchange for the Prodiba venture (the conversion of driver's licences to the credit card format).
"Then Mr Shaik said they had to discuss damage control. He showed Mr Thetard the articles and said if the Heath investigation continued the pressure would increase. He also said that if a certain ANC member, it was an African name, I did not know how to spell it, opens his mouth they would be in big trouble.
"I was writing all of this down when Mr Shaik looked at me and said: 'I hope you are not writing this down.' Mr Thetard and the other gentleman became uncomfortable. Mr Shaik asked me to leave. I left. I did not see the minutes of that meeting again ... After I left the room I could not hear clearly what was said, but voices were raised.
"Later that evening there was an incident of a personal nature between me and Mr Shaik. I did not speak to Mr Shaik again.
He did try to phone me. I would not speak to him. I returned home.
"Later I received a ... call from Mr Moodley ... Mr Shaik's lawyer. I said I did not want to go back to Nkobi. Mr Moodley said he would organise compensation for me ... I got a cheque.
"Mr Shaik insisted that the contract contain a confidentiality clause. He said I knew too much about his relationship with Deputy President Zuma."
Singh's evidence continues today.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Sapa and the Cape Times.