Cabinet Ministers Rally Around Jacob Zuma
Deputy President Jacob Zuma's cabinet colleagues have rallied around him in the run-up to his friend and financial adviser Schabir Shaik's trial on fraud and corruption charges.
Zuma has been implicated in the prosecution's allegations about irregular dealings between Shaik and French arms manufacturer Thomson-CSF, later known as Thales and now as Thint (Pty) Ltd, but has not been charged.
After yesterday's cabinet meeting, chief government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said the government had noted Zuma's public response to the allegations and took him at his word.
Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and emphasised that Shaik handled his financial affairs.
"Our respect for his office and common decency dictate that we should accept his explanation," Netshitenzhe said.
The government hoped the media would "respect the dignity of the office of the deputy president and judicial institutions and not impugn (Zuma's) integrity on the basis of allegations".
Referring to the arms deal, the cabinet said the government had been responsible for appointing only the primary contractors and that these had appointed secondary contractors.
"The issues to be canvassed in this court case do not detract from the integrity of the procurement process insofar as it involved government. Nor does it raise suggestions of influence by anyone on government's decisions, which dealt essentially with the primary procurement process."
Zuma was an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal when, in November 1998, the German Frigate Consortium - of which Thomson-CSF was a member - was awarded the corvettes contract.
contractors. According to the charge sheet against Shaik and his Nkobi group, Thomson-CSF/ Thales was part of the German Frigate Consortium that won a contract to supply four Corvettes to SA. As early as 1996 it formalised a partnership with Nkobi.
The state alleges that in 1996 the Thomson Group tried to get a slice of the arms deal, including trying to gain Zuma's influence as it was predicted that he would become deputy president.
It alleges that Zuma played a crucial role in striking a deal between Shaik and Thomson-CSF for benefits worth millions of rands and that Zuma was heavily indebted to and benefited substantially from Shaik in exchange for his influence.
With acknowledgements to Jeremy Michaels and the Cape Times.