Publication: Sapa Issued: Durban Date: 2004-10-18 Reporter: Sapa

Shaik Payment 'to Woo Zulu King for ANC'






Date 2004-10-15




Schabir Shaik's Nkobi group paid almost a quarter of a million rand to woo Zulu King Goodwill Zwelethini from the Inkatha Freedom Party to the African National Congress, according to a document handed to the Durban High Court on Friday.

The document is the transcript of an interview Scorpions investigators conducted with Shaik's former business associate, Prof Themba Sono, in Pretoria in 2002.

Sono, who served as an Nkobi director in 1996 and is now a member of the Gauteng legislature, spent a day and a half in the court this week, testifying in Shaik's trial for corruption and fraud, charges which relate in large part to the use of Shaik's Nkobi company's funds.

When Sono was asked on Thursday by prosecutor Billy Downer about Nkobi payments to "people outside the group" he said he had knowledge of a case involving "the trip" of Zwelethini but was cut short when Shaik's advocate Francois van Zyl objected that the evidence was irrelevant.

According to the interview transcript, Sono told the Scorpions he had objected to the payment for a trip by Zwelethini to the United States "because you know he is a king, he is not part of a company. There is nothing, he brings nothing to the company".

Asked whether he was given any explanation, he said, according to the document handed up in court: "Yes, it was offered he says no well it is very important that we must woo King Swelatini [sic in the transcript] from the IFP to the ANC so that money will breed a lot of goodwill in the government." He said the amount was "about R200 000".

Asked why a donation by Nkobi would have that effect, he said: "Well you see the chief executive of Nkobi [Shaik] he was a very strong fund-raiser for ANC big wicks [wigs] in kwaZulu-Natal I mean he was always travelling to Malaysia to raise funds and so wooing King Swelatini would have a tremendous impact on the ANC big wicks in kwaZulu-Natal so they said at least he have removed Swelatini from the IFP and maybe we will reward him with contracts."

At the time, he said, kwaZulu-Natal was a tinder box because of the tensions between the IFP and the ANC.

He said winning over the king would have been an achievement which the ANC itself could not have carried out "because the ANC could not go and bribe King Swelatini.

"But if we as a company could be able to persuade King Swelatini to come to our side to come to the ANC side it would be beneficiary of course I mean this is just common sense for me".

ANC kwaZulu-Natal spokesman Mtholephi Mthimkhulu said on Friday he was not aware of the payment claimed by Sono.

"We have no policy of paying people in order to support the ANC," he said.

Also featuring in court this week was a fund named the Development Africa Trust, which according to Shaik was the intended recipient of R1-million from former president Nelson Mandela, money which was to be channelled through Deputy President Jacob Zuma's personal account.

In his written plea explanation, Shaik said he was initially told by ANC heavyweight Zweli Mkhize, a trustee, that the money was intended for "confidential ANC activities".

"I have since learned that the object of the Development Africa Trust was to rise funds for the care and welfare of tribal leaders and the Zulu royal family," he said.

In the interview transcript Sono also recalls an incident in which Shaik said he was going to complain to then Transport Minister Mac Maharaj when it emerged that a transport department official was not in favour of Nkobi getting a particular contract.

He said the official, whose name he could not remember but he thought was "the chief director" of the department was "very much" against Nkobi getting the contract.

"Afterwards Shabier was very angry he says no well you know he is going to go to Mac Maharage and complain about this guy that now why is he not playing ball and he said that no we will get that contract in any event because he is going to talk to Mr Maharage." He said he thought the contract was related to the N4 or the N3 national road.

In his evidence to the High Court on Thursday, Sono said Shaik often used Maharaj's name, along with that of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, to impress business partners with his "political connectivity".

Maharaj left politics in mid-1999 and joined the board of First Rand Bank.

He quit the board in August last year after suggestions -- of which a bank-sponsored probe could find no evidence -- that during his time as minister he influenced the awarding of contracts to Shaik.

The transport department itself has come under fire after it emerged that a joint venture in which he is involved, Prodiba, last week won a second five year term as supplier of credit-card style driver's licences.

The renewal brings the total value to Prodiba of the deal to R1-million.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.