Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2004-10-18 Reporter: Estelle Ellis Reporter: Jeremy Gordin

I Opened Red Files for Zuma, says Shaik's PA



The Star

Date 2004-10-18


Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin

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Durban businessman Schabir Shaik kept two red files behind mirrored sliding doors in his office, containing details of Deputy President Jacob Zuma's financial affairs.

This was the evidence in court on Monday morning of Shaik's former receptionist and part-time personal assistant, Bianca Singh.

The striking, young, slightly built woman, dressed in a grey and black, entered the court under the protective gaze of investigators.

She has been under protection for the last fortnight and advocate Billy Downer SC explained that this was why her name had not been on the prosecution's list of witnesses.

Singh started working for Shaik in 1996, first as a receptionist and then as a personal assistant.

She said she met Shaik while she was out with her boyfriend and family at a Durban restaurant.

"Mr Shaik approached me, he gave me his business card and said I must come for an interview," she told the court.

She then went to his offices without a CV and was asked when she could start as a receptionist at Nkobi, Shaik's company. "I had no qualifications, it was only six months after I wrote matric."

She told the court that she was directly responsible to Shaik and came to know about Nkobi's "project". She was present at some of the discussions held and knew about Nkobi's interest in the corvette procurement project.

"I saw the black-and-white laminated diagrams of the corvettes in Mr Shaik's office," she said.

She further gave evidence that Zuma was "quite close to Mr Shaik". "They would speak on the phone and Mr Zuma would often come to visit. He did this both when he was a minister and (as) deputy president. Shaik would also go to see Mr Zuma at his flat and have breakfast with him over weekends."

She said she knew this because she handled Shaik's diary, scheduled meetings and made travel arrangements for him.

"Mr Shaik also asked me to open two red files for Mr Zuma, which were to be kept behind two mirrored sliding doors.

"Mr Shaik also arranged for an account for Mr Zuma to be opened with Absa Bank. He managed this account on the computer, together with Nkobi Holdings' finances.

"Mr Shaik would ask me for a print out of the company and Zuma's financial statements on a daily basis. Mr Zuma would often speak to Mr Shaik to check on the balance of his account and deposits [made] into his account.

"Transfers of money would be made to Mr Zuma's account, Kobifin (one of the corporate accused before the court) and Mr Shaik's account to Mr Zuma and Mr Zuma would phone in and check."

Singh also said that she often had to make out deposit slips for the university and school fees of Zuma's children.

Downer began proceedings by complaining about a report in the Sunday Tribune which he called "sensational". He said the document on which the report was based was confidential and that it was not in the interests of justice for it to be reported in the press.

He said it "tended in his view to contravene the sub judice rule". Judge Hilary Squires said he had not read the particular newspaper but encouraged reporters to refrain from "sensational" reporting and pay heed to "the apprehensions of the prosecution".

With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin and The Star.