Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2005-03-13 Reporter: Estelle Ellis

Shaik Loses Temper Under Pressure



Sunday Independent

Date 2005-03-13


Estelle Ellis

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After nine days under cross-examination, some hard questions from the judge and his own witness contradicting him, the normally resilient Durban businessman Schabir Shaik had had enough.

He had to apologise to one of the prosecutors in his Durban high court trial, Anton Steynberg, when he lost his temper and threatened to "sort out" Steynberg after the trial.

Nevertheless, in what must have been a superhuman effort, Shaik managed in the past week to remain cool, collected and admirably focused - apart from a few seconds of extreme irritation. The trial is expected to go into recess tomorrow and resume next month.

It has been more than three months since Deputy President Jacob Zuma's financial adviser pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption and fraud.

At times the incisive and long cross-examination by his main adversary, Billy Downer SC, the leader of the prosecution, even had Judge Hilary Squires intervening.

"You have been cross-examining for over a week. Just hurry up. We don't have much time left," Judge Squires said on day eight.

"Is the finishing post in sight?" he asked on day nine. On day 10, Downer wrapped up his questions before the judge could comment.

During the tea adjournments Shaik and his brother, Mo, would often stroll up the street to a nearby restaurant. Once Shaik encountered a homeless man, gave him money, and later sent him a sandwich.

On another occasion he helped a worker open a manhole in the pavement.

But it was the assistance he gave to his close friend, Zuma, that was in the spotlight.

The state alleges there was a corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma. In short, its case is that Shaik paid Zuma and that Zuma helped Shaik in return. As part of his defence, Shaik said that there was a revolving credit agreement for R2 million between Zuma and Shaik - signed, sealed and declared to parliament ... and also missing, it seemed, this week.

The state, which does not believe the loan agreement to be authentic, more specifically disputes that it was signed as long ago as May 1999, and wants the original document in order to send it for forensic analysis.

Shaik said he did not have it. He thought Zuma had it. Zuma's attorney, Julie Mohammed, told the court this week that Zuma thought she had it. She thought Zuma had it. The court thought parliament had it.

Mohammed and Shaik also gave contradictory evidence on when the agreement was signed, where it was signed, and Zuma's instructions about renewing it as it expired in May last year.

To add to the confusion, Francois van Zyl SC, Shaik's counsel, handed a letter to court in which Frank Chikane, the secretary to the cabinet, said Zuma declared in 2001 that he owed Shaik R1,5 million. During the trial, Shaik had admitted, however, to making payments to or on behalf of Zuma totalling R666 000.

When confronted with evidence showing, the state says, that he was never serious about claiming back the money he advanced to Zuma, Shaik blamed his bookkeepers.

By the end of the week he denied supplying the state with an updated schedule of payments made to Zuma and with a final figure of Zuma's indebtedness to him.

By Friday, Shaik snapped at Steynberg. It seemed he was not informed about discussions between his legal team and the state on attempts by investigators to interview more employees of the Shaiks' Nkobi group of companies.

"I am not scared of you. I will sort you out after the trial. You are a racist ... your time is over. Get that into your thick skull," Shaik said to Steynberg.

Downer told the court that he added: "You will run from me like Bulelani [Ngcuka, the former national director of public prosecutions] did."

When Shaik later apologised it came after a week where he often had to ask for "forgiveness" and, in one instance, for "mercy" when he became irritated and offensive during cross-examination.

The trial continues.

With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and the Sunday Independent.