Publication: City Press Issued: Date: 2004-10-16 Reporter:

Shaik Ready to Take Zuma's Calls



City Press

Date 2004-10-16

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Flanked by his three brothers, Durban businessman Schabir Shaik oozed confidence in his designer suites as he walked into the Durban high court this week, frequently smiling at media representatives and casually greeting the onlookers.

Shaik is on trial for allegations of fraud and corruption. His trial could decide the political fate of deputy president Jacob Zuma.

The Shaik brothers, Schabir, Mo, Chippy and Yunis - who are renowned for their taste of good things, including expensive clothes and fast cars - stole the hearts of many female admirers in court so much that one female deejay (who declined to be named) made it to court aiming to stalk Mo, but she was ignored.

They fed into the media frenzy as they strolled up the court driveway attracting attention from the passers-by and onlookers.

The Shaik brothers were in court to give "moral" support to one of their own - Schabir - who is facing fraud and corruption charges in connection with the state's multi-billion rand arms deal.

Shaik is accused, among other things, of bankrolling Zuma in exchange for his alleged influence in securing government contracts.

Shaik is also accused of being a middle-man who allegedly arranged a R500 000 bribe from a French arms company in exchange for assurance from Zuma that he would protect the company in the event of an investigation into the arms deal.

Shaik has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial took off slowly on Monday as court officials sought to register a number of journalists who had descended to the coastal city for what could be the trial of the decade.

However, inside the court-room, Shaik came under fire from the first witness on Thursday - Professor Themba Sono who was an executive director of Nkobi Holdings - Shaik's company.

Sono launched a broadside against Shaik saying the accused was a "chronic capitalist and political enterpreneur". Sono accused Shaik of using Zuma to further his business interests.

Sono left Nkobi Holdings in 1997 after just less than a year of joining the group. In his letter of resignation he said he was leaving because Shaik was rude and arrogant.

Sono said Shaik had said to him (Sono): "Listen here my friend. Your blackness means nothing to me. Your professorship, PhD, connection with Mandela, Mbeki or ANC does not mean anything in this company."

Sono said he was just a rented black in the Nkobi Holdings with Shaik sharing very little information about company operations.

He said financial management at Nkobi was in such tatters that at one stage he loaned the company R75 000 to pay its employees salaries after Shaik's salary cheques had bounced.

Sono told how Shaik boasted as early as 1996 that former president Nelson Mandela would retire and the then deputy president Thabo Mbeki would take over and Zuma would become deputy president.

Sono said Shaik asked for his advice on whether he (Shaik) would make a good director general in the deputy president's office.

"I told him that he was not suitable for that position because he wakes up at 11 am, go to the mosque and only come to work at about 2pm," said Sono.

Shaik's counsel, Francois van Zyl, put it to Sono that the matter of Zuma becoming a deputy president was a sheer speculation because the ANC had to have elections first. And Zuma was elected deputy president at the Mafikeng conference in 1997.

Shaik hit back at his accusers in his explanation plea saying there was nothing wrong with him bankrolling the deputy president since the two are friends and have known each other since struggle days in the 1980s.

Shaik detailed a string of payments he made to Zuma which he said were interest free loans that Zuma undertook to repay. Shaik told how he paid Zuma's wives including now foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Shaik painted a dim picture of Zuma who was sinking into debts so much that he conceded to Shaik that he was thinking of leaving politics because he could no longer afford to send his children into decent schools.

Shaik, apparently worried about the future of the KwaZulu-Natal since Zuma was a major player in ending violence, persuaded Zuma to stay on in politics pledging to help him stabilise his finances.

Shaik paid Zuma's wives Nkosazana, the late Kate, children's school and university fees, repairs to motor vehicles, travelling, ANC levies etc.

Shaik, through his advocate Van Zyl, told the court how an ANC Stanger branch treasurer in KwaZulu-Natal, Dawood Mangerah, threatened to sequestrate Zuma for money he had loaned him. Shaik paid the man off.

Shaik said Zuma had incurred the expenditure on behalf of the ANC. He also told how he rented Zuma an apartment after receiving intelligence information that Zuma could be attacked.

Already two of Zuma's properties had been burnt down. Shaik said he regarded all these payments as contributions to the ANC.

But the state maintained that these payments were retainers to influence Zuma to pull political strings in contracts where Shaik's company was bidding. The state's allegations were backed up by Sono who charged that in almost all business deals that Shaik negotiated he regularly raised the name of Zuma.

"In some instances he would keep his phone on and tell the meeting that he is expecting a call from Zuma," said Sono.

The trial continues.

With acknowledgement to the City Press.