Shaik, Zuma relationship 'corrupt'

Evidence of what the state claimed was a “generally corrupt” relationship between Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Durban businessman Schabir Shaik was overwhelming, Judge Hillary Squires said in the Durban High Court on Wednesday.

“The case is convincing and really overwhelming,” Judge Squires told the court as he finished weighing the evidence of count one of general corruption against Shaik.

In his summary, Judge Squires said payments made to Zuma by Shaik constituted a benefit under the definition of corruption.

“Even if regarded as loans [as claimed by the defence], the basis on which they were made would in our view constitute a benefit,” the judge said.

The testimony of Shaik’s former employees—personal assistant Bianca Singh and director Themba Sono—was credible.

KPMG forensic auditor Johan van der Walt had explained in “chapter and verse what he had culled” from all the evidence available to him. His testimony was also credible, even though he offered a few opinions during his lengthy stand in the witness box.

Squires said Shaik’s former accountant Celia Bester had continuously pointed out and asked him questions about problems she encountered in his financial statements, but she never got an answer.

Approaching the second half of his 165-page verdict, Judge Squires painted a picture of a “mutually beneficial symbiosis” between Zuma and Shaik—who acted as the deputy president’s financial adviser.

Shaik would only have made the payments if he was to get something in return, the judge said.

“Generosity on this sustained scale becomes egocentric.”

The payments, made through Shaik’s Nkobi group of companies, were made in spite of the group’s own financial difficulties. At a time when payments to Zuma totalled more than R500 000, Nkobi had nearly reached its R450 000 bank overdraft limit.

“The group was essentially borrowing money to give to Zuma,” the judge said.

He pointed to clear evidence of a readiness on Zuma’s part to intervene to the benefit of Shaik’s business interests, despite Nkobi appearing not to be a viable business.

Zuma got involved in Shaik’s attempts to enter into joint ventures with other companies, despite evidence that any such move was likely to be a “sure failure”.

“There is evidence of Shaik’s readiness to turn to Zuma for help, and of Zuma’s readiness to give it,” the judge said.

Shaik has pleaded not guilty to two charges of corruption and one of fraud—all related to alleged irregular financial dealings involving Zuma.

Judge Squires said it is clear that the only assistance Zuma could provide was using his political office. He was in no position to lend Shaik any money.

What has to be determined, however, is whether alleged payments made by Shaik to Zuma can be linked to the assistance the deputy president provided.

“The essential question is the existence of a causal link between the payments and the assistance. Were these the results Shaik were after?” the judge said.

As Judge Squires outlined some of the issues on which Shaik had been cross-examined, he said Shaik “had no scruples” and that his actions showed a “tendency to avoid an unwanted result”.

However, Judge Squires pointed out that in a criminal trial “premium has to be placed on truth”. He said Shaik was not an impressive witness.

In many cases, his answers were long and irrelevant and he showed “flashes of candour”.

This, the judge said “could have been the result of natural verbosity”.

He said Shaik had no coherent answers in some cases and his performance as a witness on the whole was not impressive.—Sapa

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