Publication: Business Day Date: 2004-10-18 Reporter: David Gleason

The Shaik Case : A Motley Stew of Racism, Fear, Money and Ambition



Business Day

Date 2004-10-18


David Gleason

Web Link


So, finally, at last, after years of media attention, the great corruption trial of Schabir Shaik and Deputy President Jacob Zuma is being enacted. I know that the judge, Hillary Squires, says Zuma is not on trial but, oh yes, they have made sure he is.

A number of issues emerge from the first week of the case. The first is racism. Giving evidence of a sort, Prof Themba Sono made it clear he does not like Shaik which is fine, but entirely inconsequential.

But he alleged that he was recruited into Shaik's company, Nkobi Holdings, solely to play the role of the black skin for rent.

What this brings to the surface is the subliminal dislike shared by many white and black South Africans for Indians.

According to former national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, the man who engineered this case, they are "coolies" though Ngcuka denied having said this at a secret off-the-record briefing he gave to black editors.

Having been reported, he would deny it , wouldn't he?

And I am left with the sense that, although Indians are classified black for empowerment purposes, they are not really quite black enough. In any event, their problem is that they are financially smart and they are seen by many black South Africans as competition for what it is they most desire a big share of the economic space currently occupied by whites.

What a tragedy it has come to this in a country supposedly aiming at nonracialism.

The second issue is the use being made of the criminal justice system to promote a political objective. We need to ask ourselves who it is that has most to gain or lose from the arrival of Zuma as the country's next president, if that is what happens?

The answers are not hard to find. It is those who want to change the way the ruling African National Congress has traditionally conducted its business. They want to ensure that they become entrenched in the political stratosphere, and many of them have presidential ambitions of their own.

And they are supported or aided and abetted by white business, which has it in its collective head that Zuma represents a grave threat to their economic interests. Where did white businessmen get this from? In fact, it has been informed on this by exactly those groups the crews that most want to get their hands on the levers of power.

Nothing I have ever read or listened to about Zuma signals that he is in any way opposed to the economic system in place in this country, or that he has any intention of doing something stupid, like embarking on a wholesale nationalisation programme. He may not articulate himself particularly well to off-the-cuff questioning in English or have written any learned political strategies but this does not mean he is, therefore, a hick from the rural areas.

Just in passing, I have to note that the charge sheet against Shaik about which much has been made looks like nothing more than a shotgun approach.

The tactic appears to be that, if the main charge does not stick, then maybe one of the others will get close.

The other major issue if it was ever needed to underline the relationship is that everyone can now see quite clearly how economics and politics interplay with one another. In the end, it really is all about money, power and influence.

Perhaps, in the days ahead, the state's prosecutor will deliver something better than the fare served up last week.

Well, we shall see.

With acknowledgements to David Gleason and the Business Day.