Tactics Used by Shaik a 'Form of Corruption'
Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin
Durban: "My politics and my skin colour are not for rent."
This was said yesterday by deputy leader of the Independent Democrats Themba Sono about his resignation seven years ago as an executive director of Schabir Shaik's flagship company Nkobi Holdings.
Sono said that what Shaik called "political connectivity" he would call "corruption".
"His use of political connections was always a standing issue between us," Sono said.
Sono said Shaik had asked him to be an executive director of Nkobi Holdings in 1996. "He was a very articulate fellow with a fascinating vision. I was extremely impressed with him."
Shaik has pleaded not guilty to two charges of corruption and one of fraud.
Sono told the court: "I did not expect to make money initially. Shaik said: 'I am going to make you a millionaire,' I said 'hear hear'."
Under cross-examination, Sono explained that he did not believe that "political connectivity" was the same thing as black economic empowerment - "actually, it could be a form of corruption", he said.
He said he would attend meetings about future joint ventures with Shaik, at which Shaik would tell companies: "We bring in a lot of goodwill. We have political connectivity, without this it could be difficult to get contracts."
Sono said: "Shaik was the king of the hill. They (foreign companies seeking government tenders) wanted a political force that could deliver. He was a good negotiator."
He explained to the court that he did not know much about the finances of Nkobi Holdings.
"We never really talked about the funding of Nkobi, we talked about how Nkobi could win business," he said.
He said once there was a heated debate about Nkobi not being able to finance joint ventures. This was when it, with Denel and French arms company Thomson (now Thint) were going to bid for the credit card drivers' licence tender.
"Schabir was brilliant in responding. We are an empowerment company, he said. We bring goodwill and open doors and political connectivity. That is very important. The others were not very convinced," Sono explained. He said Shaik often mentioned the names of deputy president Jacob Zuma and former transport minister Mac Maharaj.
"He had a nice big cellphone. He would say: Deputy President Zuma may call at any time. I cannot switch off the phone. He was impressing our partners in joint ventures."
He said he had discussed Nkobi's lack of expertise at a bosberaad in 1996. At this stage Nkobi was positioning itself to bid for the corvette contract that formed part of the arms deal.
Shaik stressed Nkobi "had to place ourselves strategically".
"I understood this to mean that we must ensure that the bidding was a sure thing, persuade our friends, whoever they may be, to help us.
"We had to get government officials to help us.
"The two names that came to mind were Zuma and Maharaj.
"Shaik asked me once if I thought Zuma would be deputy president. I said he would. Shaik then asked me what I thought about him becoming Zuma's director-general. I said he was the wrong guy."
He added that he did not know that Shaik or Nkobi Holdings paid money to Zuma. "I would not have been in favour. Nkobi had financial problems."
He said he had a financial dispute with Shaik when Nkobi had financial problems and cheques bounced. He agreed to lend his R75 000 saving to pay Christmas salaries.
"When I asked for it back, Shaik sent me from pillar to post."
But Van Zyl said that in 1996 R2.3 million was deposited at Nkobi.
Sono: "R2,3 million? No waaaay. Shaik kept these things to himself."
"I resigned in February 1997. My unhappiness went on for quite a while. I was not happy with seeing Nkobi money going somewhere else. I took exception to the boorish and autocratic manner in which Shaik treated us," said Sono.
"Shaik has two personalities. The sunny side and the not-so-sunny side.
"That is what finally triggered my letter of resignation."
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis, Jeremy Gordin and the Cape Times.