Terminal Schabir's midnight ride

Schabir Shaik has aged prematurely and looks more frail than the brash businessman who was convicted on two counts of corruption and one of fraud in 2005.

I know this because I bumped into him just after midnight at a 24-hour petrol station shop near his home in Morningside two weeks ago.

It was early on the morning of Monday August 3, and I had run out of toilet paper. He was at the counter swiping his credit card. Dressed in a blue jacket and casual pants, he was alone, his BMW 745i in the parking lot outside.

Shaik’s driving habits made headlines this week when DA councillor Dean McPherson claimed he had seen and followed Shaik as he drove through Durban’s Musgrave area on Monday afternoon, stopping at one point to buy balloons.

Shaik had denied this to Department of Correctional Services officials, who appear satisfied with his version: “It is a family car that could have been used by anyone,” correctional services spokesperson Thami Zondi told various media outlets after officials from the department visited Shaik on Tuesday.

Shaik’s parole agreement allows him to leave home only on Fridays to attend mosque and Saturdays between 12pm and 4pm.

With the sardines again failing to make an appearance off the Durban coast, Shaik-spotting has become the seasonal sport in the city.

At our chance meeting in the early hours of August 3, I asked him how his health was.
“I’m working towards better health,” he said, smiling weakly.

He then asked me how things were at Spiga d’Oro, his favourite Italian restaurant, where he could be seen holding court almost daily before November 2006—when he began what should have been a 15-year incarceration. He was released on medical parole in March this year.

I told him I’d just been there and he nodded, saying he’d seen me while driving past.

The Citizen newspaper reported that Shaik was seen playing golf in Durban, while earlier this year there were media reports that he had been spotted at an exclusive restaurant in Umhlanga.

When contacted this week about our meeting, Shaik did not deny it, saying only: “I can’t recall it.” We then had an extensive off-the-record conversation.

The DA is standing by its claim that Shaik violated his parole agreement. The party’s shadow minister for correctional services, James Selfe, said the Shaik sightings this week sharpened questions about the veracity of his claims of ill-health and “confirm suspicions that his release from prison on medical parole was nothing more than political favouritism”.

The DA is consulting attorneys about “whether or not [the matter] can be reviewed in court”, Selfe said.

He said that although Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had so far refused the DA’s request to refer the matter to the correctional supervision and parole review board, the party would pursue it in Parliament on Wednesday.

Selfe said the DA’s question for Mapisa-Nqakula would again deal with whether or not she was willing to refer the matter to the parole review board, and if not, why not.

He said the party was also seeking more information “to determine how many inmates apply for medical parole, how many are granted parole and how many are refused parole and subsequently die in prison”.

The party’s previous Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) applications to the department and the parole board to acquire specific information about the Shaik case “had been met with no response from either”, Selfe said.

At the time of going to press the department of correctional services had yet to respond to questions, including what steps would be taken with regard to Shaik’s violation of his parole agreement as reported in this story, whether there would be any review of Shaik’s parole to follow and why the department had ignored various PAIA applications for further information.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist whose interests include social justice, citizen mobilisation and state violence, protest, the Constitution and Constitutional Court, football and Test cricket. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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