Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2004-10-19 Reporter: Sapa Reporter: Ben Maclennan Reporter: Wendy Jasson da Costa

Shaik Lawyer Refutes Assistant's Claims



Mail and Guardian

Date 2004-10-19


Ben Maclennan, Wendy Jasson da Costa,

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Schabir Shaik's comments about the Heath Investigating Unit to arms-company head Alain Thetard were in the context of a general discussion about other contractors and their suspicions about these contractors, his advocate, Francois van Zyl, told the Durban High Court on Tuesday.

This follows testimony on Monday by Shaik's former personal assistant Bianca Singh.

Singh told the court that at a meeting in Mauritius between Thetard, Shaik and others, he had handed over a file of newspaper cuttings and said if the unit continued and if a "certain ANC [African National Congress] member opened his mouth", they would be in "real trouble".

Van Zyl said Shaik will tell the court this comment was in the context of a general discussion about the unit and their suspicions about other contracts.

He said the court will hear that the clippings Shaik had requested Singh take to Mauritius had been critical of his company, Nkobi Holdings, and Thomson. When they spoke about "damage control", they were discussing how they could rectify that criticism in the press.

In response, Singh told the court: "That's Mr Shaik's version ... I believe what I said is correct."

According to Van Zyl, the diagrams of corvettes Singh said she saw were actually for a patrol vessel for which Nkobi and others had wanted to put in a tender to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

He also said the court will be told that when Shaik became aware of Nkandla, Deputy President Jacob Zuma's traditional village project, and the cost of it, he realised that if Zuma went ahead with it he would be paying "much too much" for it.

He said Shaik will tell the court that he wrote a letter to Zuma saying that he should stop the project, but Zuma went ahead with it regardless.

Singh was again under the close eye of a Scorpions bodyguard while giving testimony and Shaik looked and chatted to journalists during proceedings.

From time to time, he called over to his lawyer to confer with him.

Diagrams displayed in court

On Monday, Singh told the court she had seen a laminated diagram of the arms-deal corvettes in a cupboard in Shaik's office soon after she started work there in 1996.

On Tuesday, Shaik's advocate, Francois van Zyl, showed her two laminated diagrams of a vessel and asked if those were the ones she saw.

Singh replied that she had seen only one diagram, that it was "a bit bigger" and that the profile of the vessel on it had been different.

Van Zyl put it to her that the plans she was holding were the only ship diagrams Shaik had had in his office.

However, Singh maintained that those were not the ones she had seen.

Van Zyl handed the diagrams in as exhibits and said he would lead evidence on them later.

Shaik faces three charges of fraud and corruption relating to alleged payments to Deputy President Jacob Zuma for protection during a probe into contracts awarded as part of a multibillion-rand arms deal.

Shaik has pleaded not guilty.

With acknowledgements to Ben Maclennan, Wendy Jasson da Costa, Sapa and the Mail & Guardian.