There can no longer be any fudging, obfuscation or room for doubt: Schabir Shaik was not in the final stages of a terminal illness when he was released from prison on medical parole.
Neither, it seems, was he suffering from a terminal illness at all, except in the sense that chronic hypertension, like other illnesses, can be life-threatening if not managed.
The parole board that released him, and the politicians who have consistently blocked a review of the decision, can no longer claim that there was credible evidence before them that suggested otherwise.
We have reviewed the medical records that were presented in support of Shaik’s parole application and the conclusion is clear: the president’s friend and sometime financial adviser has not staged a miraculous recovery since his release from prison that has seen him trade in his death-bed for the body-hugging seats of a BMW muscle-car. He just wasn’t as sick to begin with as the department of correctional services has claimed.
To be sure, he was far from well — persistent high blood pressure is bad for you. And he was depressed. Long prison sentences and the confiscation of assets are depressing things. His private doctors, not unsurprisingly, thought he would be better off outside. Who wouldn’t?
Much of this is obvious. To anyone who has cared for a person who really is in the final stages of a terminal illness, reports of Shaik roaring around Durban and relaxing at a luxury game ranch are a gross insult. Even more so for those whose loved ones have died in prison of HIV/Aids, TB or cancer.
What makes the medical documents presented to the parole board important is not that they confirm all that we suspected in this regard, but that they reveal the shabbiness of the basis for his release: a confused and barely coherent account of his condition by a clearly underqualified prison doctor and a series of sympathetic but inconclusive reports by his own physicians. On the most charitable interpretation, Shaik was very fortunate in the construction the parole board put on the evidence, but this amount of good luck, and of concentrated incompetence, looks more than a little suspicious when it surrounds the country’s most high-profile prisoner.
There are those who will say that publishing excerpts from these records, and showing them to other doctors, as we have done, is a gross invasion of Shaik’s privacy that can never be justified. They will remind us of the court case that followed an exposé by the Sunday Times based on the hospital records of the late Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
They are wrong. Shaik’s release was enormously controversial and his repeated parole violations have made it more so. The basis for the decision has not been tested by the parole review board and South Africans cannot but conclude that a special kind of justice is available to friends of the president. Minister of Correctional Services Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her acting commissioner are evidently much too grateful for their jobs to risk any public revelation of the slender evidence on which he was let out.
In the face of the government’s consistent evasions, and the president’s own bizarre assertion that he wasn’t aware of Shaik’s pardon application, we believe you have a right to know as much as possible about how the decision was reached.
Shaik can have his privacy back when the rest of us get justice back.
To deny danger is also stupid
We had sympathised with chief World Cup organiser Danny Jordaan when he called the people who questioned South Africa’s readiness to protect Africa’s biggest showcase in the wake of the attack on the Togolese football team in Angola “stupid”.
For six years Jordaan and his team have been pulling out all the stops to ensure that the Fifa World Cup, which kicks off in less than 150 days, is a massive success.
For anyone to claim seriously that the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda could derail our biggest event would be, um, stupid.
But, as we report this week, it would be just as stupid to insist that South Africa has escaped the impact of global terrorist networks, which have quietly been setting up house in the country.
If it were up to our own intelligence agencies you would not have known this. Of course we do not expect Moe Shaik to brief the country weekly on Police File about threats to our national security, but at this point we are hearing nothing. Zilch.
The world is a deeply uncertain place at present and South Africa is exceptionally, wonderfully, open to the world.
We cannot deal with the risk that this brings by bald denial. Is it not time Shaik and his counterparts in the National Intelligence Agency published our national intelligence estimate annually?
We think so.
This is what the United States and other democracies do, and citizens are certainly not “protected” by an information blackout.
Ironically, as the experts point out, South Africa may very well be protected to a degree from jihadi attacks during the World Cup because of the logistical support terrorist groups derive from their networks in this country.
That doesn’t mean we should simply rail against anyone who questions the readiness of our security agencies to deal with the threat of terror attacks.
We need a sober assessment of the risk and enough information to be confident that our spies and law-enforcers have paused long enough in their internal wars to focus on securing our greatest showcase.
We’ll help to get the facts out, Moe, if you tell us what they are.