/ 17 June 2011

Shabangu rues ‘Zuma friendship’ claim

Shabangu Rues 'zuma Friendship' Claim

Property tycoon Roux Shabangu has slammed the Mail & Guardian for what he called a deliberate attempt to discredit him and his company, Roux Shabangu Fund.

“I would like to point out that I was deeply disturbed by the M&G article of June 3 2011. I feel that the article and its sources were deliberately trying to discredit me and my company,” Shabangu said at a media briefing on Friday.

He called the briefing in Irene, Pretoria, to “set the record straight” regarding his widely reported long-standing relationship with President Jacob Zuma.

The M&G story he was referring to quoted his former business associate, Japie van Niekerk, saying Shabangu had bought the 114 Vermeulen Street building in Pretoria’s Central Business District — the headquarters for the police department’s Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) — because he had information that the Department of Public Works was interested in renting it. Shabangu said this was merely an attempt by Van Niekerk to discredit him.

In the article, Van Niekerk said that when Shabangu came to him 10 years ago, “he had nothing. I saw a lot of myself in him — when I had nothing. I wanted to help the guy.”

He said he gave Shabangu a car, clothes, an office and a secretary. “And I offered him a stake in some developments,” said van Niekerk.

But Shabangu, although he admitted that he appreciated what Van Niekerk had done for him, said he never received anything on a “silver platter”.

“All that I have achieved, I worked very hard for. It was inappropriate [for Van Niekerk] to approach the media with an effort to discredit my name and that of my company. I decided to terminate our business relationship due to this unethical business conduct.”

He went further and dismissed media reports that had a longstanding friendship with Zuma. In his explanation, Shabangu said he was guilty of being a successful black entrepreneur who had stepped into a “white dominated business territory”.

“All the emphasis and over reporting about the so called ‘longstanding friendship’ is only because of the misconception that a black person or black man is not able to do business and be successful without being corrupt or being connected to the president or the government,” he said.

Shabangu’s alleged relationship with the Zuma was first made public by a Sunday Times exposé which pointed irregularities on a lease signed by the South African Police Services to house its top brass at Middestad Sanlam Centre, a building owned by Shabangu.

The Public Protector, Thuli Madontsela, found the lease to be invalid and asked the national treasury to review the deal and establish what steps could be taken to terminate the lease.

On January 15, the Sunday Times further reported on Shabangu’s plans to build a training centre for welders and boilermakers in Zuma’s home village, Nkandla.

But Shabangu maintains that at no point did he confess a friendship with Zuma to Sunday Times reporters, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstadter.

“At no point in time where I sat with [Sunday Times reporters Stephan] Hofstadter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika and confirmed that the president is my friend, I can’t confirm anything as far as that is concerned — it doesn’t make sense.”

Referred to a letter sent to Sunday Times by his lawyer confirming a longstanding relationship with Zuma, he said the letter was written with out his mandate. “Those lawyers, we terminated their contract with immediate effect once we realised that they had issued such a letter.” “Therefore,” he said, “that letter is as good as nothing.”