Shaik the Foundations
Itís one of the biggest scandals since 1994. The deputy president and his financial advisor snarled up in the multi-billion rand arms deal. Meet the Shaik brothers, at the centre of it all.
Chippy the military brother, with a doctorate in engineering. Mo, once a spymaster, now the diplomat. Schabir, the jet set businessman. And Yunis, the older brother, a lawyer.
Yunis Shaik: "Howzit boet, how are you?"
Schabir Shaik: "How are you?"
The Shaik family is pulling together in a time of crisis. Schabir is facing criminal charges. Heís accused of organizing a bribe for Deputy President Jacob Zuma, as well as making other, suspicious payments.
Yunis Shaik: "The newspapers for the most part have caricatured and presented us, or framed us, in this idea that we are crooks and corruptors of good men. And itís quite humiliating."
Mo Shaik: "Iím deeply concerned about the fact that our family name has been taken through the mud, so to speak."
Derek Watts: "Does it depress you?"
Mo: "Of course it does, it depresses me a hell of a lot."
Chippy Shaik: "We are guilty by association with being in the arms deal. The fact that our previous history has been in the liberation struggle doesnít help our image that much."
Schabir Shaik: "I have tremendous moral support from my brothers, blood is thicker than water, as they say."
Last weekend, Yunis and Chippy flew down to Durban, to support brother Schabir in his hour of need. We met up with them at Schabirís luxury beachfront penthouse. The family feels insulted by whatís happening. Especially as they say they made personal sacrifices under apartheid.
Yunis: "I certainly think we contributed in a significant way. In one area where we made a telling contribution was in counter-intelligence."
The Struggle Years
Yunis, Chippy and Mo joined the ANC as youngsters. They were activists and ended up in solitary confinement. But it wasnít wasted time. They say they recruited their jailers there. Opening doors for the ANC, from behind bars.
Yunis: "And what started out as just human beings trying to meet each other across a battlefield resulted in us been able to turn some of the security branch into being supporters of the ANC. And what they in turn would do they would take out files and bring it to us and we would copy it and photograph it and do security analysis."
The brothers spoke to the outside world by writing letters, on anything they could find, even toilet paper.
Yunis: "The letters are so full about one brother worrying about the other, you know We were constantly writing to one another. Ja, we always wrote to our Dad, you know. He would serve as our anchor in life, you know."
Schabir says he flew to London to meet ANC leaders. Here he became a banker for the party. His job was to get international funds flowing secretly to his brother Moís covert spy unit.
Schabir: "So we set up dummy operations in South Africa and this was in Durban, particularly at Cawood centre where I had an office and the front of it was just merely consulting engineering, but the back end of it was providing a service to Mo and other organizations."
Derek: "So it was a front?"
Schabir: "Indeed it was, we had many fronts."
Derek: "What about the sums involved?"
Schabir: "In excess of a R100 million yeah."
Today, ten years into democracy, Schabir still handles vast sums of money. But this time through multiple companies heís set up under Nkobi Holdings. Itís his success in landing government contracts that seems to have got him into trouble, particularly in the arms deal.His close relationships with top politicians are now under scrutiny.
On the 25th of August, Schabir was charged with theft, fraud and corruption. The charge sheet runs to almost fifty pages and claims that Schabir picked up the tab for deputy president Zumaís childrenís education, family allowances, clothing and other personal items amounting to more than a million rand.
The Scorpions claim that Zuma holds shares secretly in Schabirís Nkobi Group. They say money was funnelled to Zumaís rural homestead in kwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma is also accused of having a special arrangement with Schabirís French partners, the arms company, Thomsons.
This letter suggests Zuma agreed to protect Thomsons during the arms deal inquiry. In exchange, heíd get R500 000 a year.
Schabir: "Iíd like to nominate the author of the charge sheet for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, having put together a fantastic fictional story about espionage and arms dealing, bribery and corruption. That is how the charge sheet reads to me."
Derek: "Schabir, anybody seeing your opulent lifestyle would say arms deal money?"
Schabir: "We havenít received a single farthing, durham (sp?) or euro into our companyís cashflow to enjoy the benefits of our hard work, effort and sweat."
Schabir attributes his wealth to business acumen and heís not afraid to enjoy the fruits of his success.
Derek: "This is this quite a recent model?"
Schabir: "This is the latest - top of the range 745iÖ. menu please"
Car: "Pardon me?"
Schabir is still introducing himself to his brand new car. Itís a relationship heís clearly got to work on.
Schabir: "Voice activation."
Car: "Pardon me?"
Car: "Would you like information on nearby hotels, petrol stations or parking?"
Schabir: "Arms deal scandal!"
Directed by the state-of-the-art GPS navigation system, we piloted our way to the other side of town, to where the Shaiks grew up.
Neighbour 1: "Give me a hug man Ė lovely too see you, manÖfive years!"
Neighbour 2: "Hey, boys you are looking well!"
Our arrival at Greenwood Park turned into a reunion. Suddenly everybody was talking about the good old days, years back, when the Shaiks were young and had nothing.
Derek: "Could these Shaiks play soccer?"
Neighbour 3: "Oh definitely, they were tigers, they were fighters."
Neighbour 4: "We are very proud of them, but they are in the media just for the wrong reasons, you know what I mean."
Neighbour 5: "Lovable boys. Never looked for trouble."
Derek: "When you hear the news these about the arms deal, how do you feel?"
Neighbour 5: "My heart gets sore."
Neighbour 6: "Hopefully, itís not as bad as the papers make out it to be, I think politics is a bit of a dirty game, donít you?"
But the Shaiks involvement in the revolution, as they call it, means that politics is their game. And after 1994, Chippy and Mo landed top jobs in government. And it's Chippyís role in the arms deal as head of acquisitions that put the Shaik name back in the news. At the centre of a highly politicised row about kickbacks and corruption.
The Arms Deal
The allegations of corruption in the arms deal surfaced in Parliament three years ago. And concerned politicians started an investigation, which ended a year later. But for many people, including businessman Richard Young, the fight for truth didnít end with this report.
The report criticised Chippy for not properly recusing himself in the award of a contract to Schabirís business partners, ADS and Thomsons. It was for a combat suite for the new corvettes. And Richard Young believes that that multi-million rand contract was destined for him.
Richard Young (Businessman): "From my perspective, this contract that ADS and Thomson have got - itís almost as though Schabir negotiated this contract with Chippy."
To prove his point, Richard has campaigned for information about the deal from government. He wants 150 million rand in compensation. Heís already spent two million on lawyers. And heís also created an on-line press office on the arms deal. From his website, the world has access to every printed word on the Shaiks.
Derek: "Richard, you feel that the relationship between the brothers Chippy and Schabir was vital to the arms deal as it happened?"
Richard Young: "Absolutely, well, certainly when it comes to the corvettes and the corvette combat suite in particular; and itís not just my say so, Chippy has formally declared his conflict of interest regarding the combat suites."
Derek: "But saying he had excused himself from the meeting?"
Richard: "Recused himself Öbut he actually didnít. I mean the Joint Investigating Team reported in their report that his recusal was no recusal at all. I have got a lot of evidence in the last couple of weeks that show even what they reported was really, really just the tip of the iceberg of the relationship between himself and ADS and Thompson, as far as the negotiations were concerned."
But Chippy says his recusal was valid. He and Schabir say Richardís allegations are unfounded. They say in fact Schabirís company had lost out on other arms deal contracts. As a result, Schabir had to close down this ADS branch in Mount Edgecombe.
Chippy: "Richard has found a way of making the media feel that there is this wonderful engineering doctor from Cape Town who's been raped by this bad coloured Shaik family. Unfortunately, Richard, I'm also an engineering doctor. Unfortunately, Richard, I also spent fifteen to twenty years in engineering. Unfortunately, Richard, the project control board had nothing less than fifteen engineers on board and all the other engineers never ruled in his favour. So he tried to discredit us to make his cause look good."
The media is part of the Shaikís story. Investigative reporter Paul Kirk thinks that the Shaiks have got so much attention because of Richard Youngís court battle.
Paul Kirk (Investigative Journalist): "The court battle has brought a whole lot of documents that the media and the public would otherwise never have seen into the public arena which have revealed, which have put Schabir Shaiks companies under intense scrutiny, which none of the other arms companies, who got much much bigger deals than Schabir have had to endure."
Derek: "The lifestyle of the Shaiks seems to come under the focus?"
Paul: "The Sunday Times ran a front page article mentioning how Schabirís had his penthouse up for sale for R2,6 million and with a photograph of him wading into his pool of his new mansion smoking what looked like an enormous Cuban cigar. Itís a rather tacky display of wealth. I mean, itís much like having bumper sticker saying 'screw the poor' stuck onto your Porsche."
Schabir says heís earned his wealth. Heís just bought this R5 million residence in Durban. Itís got prize-winning Khoi in the pond.
But the question is out there did he get his gold by underhand means?
The Other Side
We contacted old comrades from the struggle days to talk about the family. To our surprise, some were reluctant to speak.
One person not concerned about appearing on camera was a former director of Nkobi Holdings, Professor Themba Sono. He worked with Schabir locally and overseas in 1996.
Professor Themba Sono (former Nkobi Director): "He was peddling political influence. We had no product; we had no commodities, that we were selling. He was talking big, but I said ĎNo, well where are the resources?í He says, ĎNo, we shouldnít worry about the resources'. I said, ĎWhy?í He says, ĎNo, well because of our political connectivity.í And this is his phrase, ĎBig companies will want to invest in our company, so that, you know, weíll exchange our political goodwill for equity.í "
Themba, an academic and now a politician, fell out with Schabir after a year. Their fights were over money, business and politics. He told the Scorpions everything he knows about the wheelings and dealings at Nkobi Holdings.
Derek: "What were you able to learn about Schabirís political connections?"
Themba: "He talked a lot about Jeff Radebe, who was then the minister of, I think, Public Works and, of course, Jacob Zuma, he was his main favourite, Mac Maharaj and Joe Modise."
Schabir: "I can assure you had I used just one percent of the so-called influence that Deputy President Zuma wields, I would probably be having two private jets and all the trappings of a billionaire."
Derek: "Where are they?"
Schabir: "Where are they? So I think itís a pipe dream for anyone to suggest that just knowing Deputy President Zuma opens up a whole host of business opportunities. "
Derek: "If Schabir offers you another directorship?"
Themba: "He told me that that, Themba, I am going to make you a millionaire, within two years. Instead, he nearly made me broke, because he took my savings. So if he says another directorship I will tell him to go and shove it in the Point, in the deep sea off Durban."
The other brother, Mo, has moved from intelligence to diplomacy in his lifetime.
Heís now an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mo suspects a greater, yet unproven conspiracy behind the trials and tribulations of the Shaik family.
Mo: "For me the saddest thing is not what Schabir, I think Schabir will have his day in court and I wish he has good defence lawyers that can prove his innocence. For me, the crime here, and the real crime, is that the deputy president of this country is being charged, whilst not being charged as a direct accused. Heís been charged indirectly via somebody else been accused, and I think that is a travesty of justice."
Derek: But maybe the tactic is to see what comes out of the trial and then see if itís necessary to charge the deputy president?"
Mo: I am glad you say itís a tactic."
But Schabirís claims of innocence donít wash with the Scorpions. Nor many in the media.
And the interest in the brothers is still linked to that burning question what really happened in the arms deal?
Derek: "Surely, there was always going to be a problem when your brother got a slice of the deal?"
Chippy: "Ah, Derek, you are well aware that all families donít share their money. Unless you have a rich brother who is willing to give you some money, please find me oneÖI need one of those."
Derek: "Schabir is not one of those? "
Chippy: "Heís not one of those. He doesnít pay for my rent. He doesnít pay for any aspect of my lifestyle. And I donít ask for it and I donít want it in return."
Schabir and his brothers are living with the prospect that if he loses in court, he may go to jail. Could a Shaik once again be behind bars?
Derek: "Do you think you are going to get a fair shake of the dice in court?"
Schabir: "I think that the dice is already cast and I can see the numbers clearly, they clearly say 'Shaik scot-free'."
With acknowledgements to Carte Blanche, MNET, Marion Edmunds and Derek Watts.