Shaik : TV Coverage Mulled Over
Tisha Steyn, Sapa
Durban - The criminal case against Schabir Shaik has been postponed to Wednesday to allow the Durban High Court to hear argument on whether it should allow live television broadcasts.
The postponement came soon after the trial began on Monday morning in a courtroom packed with journalists and the public.
Shaik's four brothers sat together near the front of the court room behind a double bank of lawyers, while he himself sat with his legal team.
At the start of proceedings the leader of the prosecution team, Billy Downer, asked that charges against arms company Thint be withdrawn under an agreement with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
He also asked that the criminal matter against Shaik, who faces two counts of corruption and one of fraud, stand down to Wednesday to allow the hearing of e.tv's live-broadcast application.
Judge Hillary Squires granted both requests and extended Shaik's R1 000 bail to the end of the trial.
He dismissed a bid by the SABC to join in the e.tv application, saying it seemed the public broadcaster was bringing in a different issue by seeking permission for radio broadcasts as well.
Arguing for e.tv, advocate Gilbert Marcus said the broadcaster's application was about giving meaning to the requirement in the Criminal Procedure Act that a trial should take place in open court, and about giving content to the concept of open justice.
He said the act made an even more compelling case for live broadcasts than the reasons which led to the King Commission into cricket match fixing being thrown open to the electronic media.
He said the application was "not about causing disruption to proceedings".
The cameras would be unobtrusive and e.tv and other broadcasters would co-operate on feeds from the proceedings.
Some arrangement of microphones would be necessary.
"Apart from that, my lord, there will be no disruption or dislocation whatsoever."
He said the trial was of major public importance and a limited number of people could attend.
In the 21st century there was simply no other medium of equivalent effectiveness to television and radio.
He said the issues of the trial were wider than those in the indictment, and were matters of the highest importance. If the State succeeded in establishing the charges against Shaik, it would have implications for "matters of governance" in South Africa.
Marcus was referring to the fact that deputy president Jacob Zuma, who Shaik serves as financial adviser, has been repeatedly named in the indictment. The trial is likely to affect whether Zuma succeeds President Thabo Mbeki.
With acknowledgements to Tisha Steyn, Sapa and News24.