Shaik 'got permission' for lodge visit

Schabir Shaik received permission from his parole officer to recuperate in a luxury lodge following his release from prison last year, the department of correctional services said on Friday.

“He did get permission from his correctional services officer at that time,” said Sonwabo Mbananga, in response to a Mail & Guardian report that Shaik spent three nights at the Thanda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal in June.

Mbananga said a doctor had recommended that the holiday may aid Shaik’s recuperation, adding that the department had not paid for Shaik’s stay at the game reserve.

‘Terminal illness’
Businessman Shaik was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a corruption trial in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in 2006. He was convicted on two counts of corruption, including solicitation of an arms-deal bribe for Jacob Zuma.

But in a controversial move he was released on medical parole in March, allegedly because he was suffering from a ‘terminal illness”.

He has applied for a presidential pardon. A spokersperson confirmed this week that the presidency is wading through 300 applications for pardon, including those of Shaik and apartheid killer Eugene de Kock.

Rapport newspaper caught Shaik in the act of violating his parole conditions about two weeks ago.
As a result, the department of correctional services tightened his parole, allowing him to leave his house only for two hours over the weekend and issuing him with a formal warning.

His parole officer was also changed, while medical checkups must be conducted at his home.

Staff told to keep distance
Three sources close to Thanda, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the M&G that Shaik stayed at Thanda’s ‘royal suite”—a private villa—with his wife and a ‘small child” on June 13, 14 and 15 last year. He was released on medical parole in March.

They said during his stay he had no contact with anyone else, that staff were told to keep their distance and that his stay had to be completely confidential.

Thanda recently won the award for the World’s Leading Luxury Lodge. Exclusive use of its villa, where Shaik stayed, costs R47 500 a night. It is unclear who paid for the three-night junket. A source familiar with the details told the M&G ‘no money changed hands”, suggesting the stay was a gift.

Mbananga said Shaik had admitted to being out in public twice beyond his parole hours and without informing his parole officer.

Mbananga said these related to being spotted at a garage, and speaking to a journalist.

As a “phase-two” prisoner, and not “phase one” as suggested by the Democratic Alliance, he was given a written warning that should he violate his parole conditions again, “he would be re-accommodated at a correctional services facility”.

“We curtailed his free time ... we have given him an official warning.”

Mbananga said that as long as Shaik’s parole officer was informed if he intended venturing out beyond these hours, and permission was granted, he would be covered.

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