Publication: Cape Times
Reporter: Wendy Jasson da Costa
Shaik Judge's Clarification of Ruling has 'No Legal
Wendy Jasson da
controversy surrounding the statement that ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma and
fraud and corruption convict Schabir Shaik had a "generally corrupt
relationship" was a "storm in a tea cup", according
to prosecutor Billy Downer.
He was responding to queries after the judge
in the Shaik trial, Justice Hilary Squires, wrote to a weekend newspaper denying
ever using that line in his judgment.
Judge Squires's letter came after
the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment against Shaik last week, in which this
statement was again attributed to him. Shaik started serving his 15-year
sentence for fraud and corruption last week.
Yesterday Downer, the
prosecutor in the Shaik case, said it was the media that had
first used that line, not Squires, but it made no
legal difference, "nothing, zero".
He said the issue over who had
coined the phrase was irrelevant because "ultimately" that
was the finding of the court. "It's an argument
without any substance. It makes no difference because that's in effect what he (Squires) found," said Downer.
University of KwaZulu-Natal law professor Robin Palmer said whether or
not Judge Squires had used it in his judgment would not affect the merits of the
case and that the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal which quoted the
phrase in its judgment and attributed it to Squires could not be set aside as
The "ambiguous interpretation" of the
phrase could have major political ramifications. "It is this ambiguity
that will be exploited politically," said Palmer.
This was already evident after various organisations that supported Zuma were
now saying Judge Squires had judged him even before he appeared in
Palmer said, on the one hand, it could mean that Shaik had
aggressively exploited Zuma, while, on the other hand, it could mean that Zuma
and Shaik were in a corrupt relationship and were both aware of it.
said Judge Squires must have written the letter because he realised that, after
a year-and-a-half, the issue was still not being put into context.
Palmer said if Zuma was recharged his lawyers could argue the issue cast
doubt on his prospect of having a fair trial.
Political analyst Adam
Habib said it was a matter of "technicality" and even if Judge Squires had not
said Zuma and Shaik had a generally corrupt relationship, "the judgment does
speak of inappropriate behaviour".
Last night Zuma's lawyer Mike Hulley
said Judge Squires had tried to correct an incorrect media perception and had
thereby inadvertently also exposed some other
The implication was that it brought into sharp focus
whether or not Zuma would have a fair trial.
Judge Squires told the Cape
Times last night his letter had been to a journalist who had incorrectly written
that he had ruled there had been a "generally corrupt relationship" between Zuma
He said he had also written earlier this year to the
newspaper's editor. Both were private letters not meant for
publication. He had not raised the matter previously because there had
been an appeal pending.
With acknowledgement to Wendy Jasson da