Publication: The Citizen Issued: Date: 2005-12-14 Reporter: Paul Kirk Reporter: Reporter:

'An Alleged Tale of a Public Relations Officer on Retainer'



The Citizen

Date 2005-12-14


Paul Kirk


Not many people have heard of Africa Confidential – the publication’s own website describes it as a newsletter and not a magazine. It seldom runs to more than four pages but all the same it costs over US$1200 a year to subscribe to. That’s a bit more than R7 000.

It’s a fair bet that the average man or woman in the street is not about to fork over that amount of cash for four A4 pages of newsletter every two weeks and so it’s also a pretty fair bet that not many people are aware that the documents linking former Deputy President Jacob Zuma to a prostitute first appeared on Africa Confidential’s pages.

Months ago the publication carried all the technicolour detail of how Sabeer Sheikh-Ibrahim, the former Managing Director of Kobitech Transport Systems, had told the Scorpions that Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik shared the services of a young lady who was paid for out of Kobitech Transport Services salary accounts.

The article Africa-Confidential carried was much more explicit than anything the SA media has run, including the quote about how the girl would: “pomp” with Zuma in return for payment.

Cape Town businessman, and failed arms deal bidder, Richard Young has been kind enough to put up the offending Africa Confidential story called “Gunning for JZ” on his website, which carries what must amount to very close to every article ever written on South Africa’s controversial R60 billion arms deal.

Anyone reading Young’s website would realize that Africa-Confidential was in possession of Sabeer Sheikh-Ibrahim’s transcribed testimony way back when they first ran the story.

It’s also quite clear that Zuma and the man who allegedly pimped the girl to Zuma, Schabir Shaik, were aware of this. The article carries quotes from both Zuma’s spokesman and Nkobi Holdings – Shaik’s company – which was approached for comment about the transcript.

It never carried any quotes from Sheikh-Ibrahim himself – but the man that Zuma yesterday described as a “dismissed former managing director” has spoken to me, and a quick search on the internet reveals he has spoken to many other hacks as well.

Sheikh-Ibrahim seemed a pleasant enough fellow when I met him. He spoke to me at length told me he was keen to assist arms deal investigators if ever asked to do so. It’s not surprising then that Sheikh-Ibrahim gave the Scorpions testimony about Shaik and his dealings with Zuma.

This week an unholy row has broken out because the media have printed some of the details contained in the transcript of Sheikh-Ibrahim’s testimony. Zuma, through his lawyer, has claimed to be the victim of a smear and once again attacked the media by alleging unethical behaviour in obtaining the transcript.

Yesterday the National Prosecuting Authority asked the Public Protector to probe whether they leaked the transcript.

The speed with which the NPA asked the Public Protector to probe the leak, should tell everyone something about their almost certain lack of complicity in making the testimony public.

Reading the transcript it’s pretty clear to anyone reading the document what happened. The transcript is not marked “Secret” or anything like that. It also has a number of errors in it, and a few spaces where the typist has noted the recording was inaudible.

I’m no expert on these things but to my simple mind this is clearly a draft transcript that was sent back to those who were involved in the interview to check for accuracy and fill in the missing words. Some how, some time after being returned to those involved in its production it then was made public.

There’s no crime or unethical behaviour involved in possessing the transcript. And the transcript could have been given to the media by a number of people other than official investigators from the Scorpions.

I’m not about to reveal who gave me my copy of the transcript, but it wasn’t anyone from the NPA.

I doubt the other copies floating about came from the NPA either.

The document carries no instructions that it has to be returned or destroyed once corrected. Secretaries, typists, those involved in taking the transcript as well as Sheikh-Ibrahim himself all had access to this draft transcript.

But we’re now probably about to have another very expensive investigation into a real sideshow – who gave the transcript to the media..

The real issue South African’s need the answer to is whether our former Deputy President is a corrupt sexual predator or a noble man who has been falsely accused of evil deeds. We’ll find that out in a court of law – not by having an inquiry into how the media came to be in possession of an unclassified draft transcript of someone’s testimony.

And I would argue that now that we know Sheikh-Ibrahim is a witness for the prosecution of Zuma it’s a matter of huge public interest to know what his testimony will be.

If Jacob Zuma feels so aggrieved by the publication of Sabeer Sheikh-Ibrahim’s testimony then he should take action against Sheikh-Ibrahim for defamation. It’s Sheikh-Ibrahim’s testimony the media are reporting on after all – and if the testimony is made up then Zuma has every right to be angry.

If Zuma felt so outraged by the leaking of evidence he should have complained months ago when Africa Confidential first let him know they had a copy of the transcript.

Complaining now, only after the mass media in South Africa publish the story, makes it look like a cynical ploy to get a little bit more sympathy by bashing the press.

With acknowledgements to Paul Kirk and The Citizen.