/ 14 December 2012

Shaik millions ‘for Zuma’s children’

Schabir Shaik said his donation was meant to allow Jacob Zuma to ­concentrate on his political work.
Schabir Shaik said his donation was meant to allow Jacob Zuma to ­concentrate on his political work.

Schabir Shaik has claimed that the millions of rands he channelled to Jacob Zuma was intended for "his children's education and upkeep".

Last week the Mail & Guardian revealed the details of a confidential KPMG report compiled for Zuma's corruption trial in 2006, which found that he accepted R4-million from Shaik of a total of R7-million from numerous benefactors.

In his judgment in 2005, Judge Hilary Squires found that Shaik had intended to corrupt Zuma. Shaik's version was rejected by every court up to and including the Constitutional Court.

Interviewed this week, Shaik denied the relationship was corrupt or that his support for Zuma had translated into commercial benefits for his company, Nkobi Holdings.

"There was no pressure whatsoever from the president," Shaik said. The funding had not been for Zuma's personal use, but "for his children's education and upkeep … so that he would not have this financial burden so that he could focus on the issues at hand".

Dealt with
Shaik said he had tendered unsuccessfully for several projects in KwaZulu-Natal, including King Shaka International Airport and a casino, during the time that Zuma, as then-MEC of economic affairs, "could have influenced the outcome".

In further reaction to the M&G's revelations, the Democratic Alliance has written to the South African Revenue Service to request an ­investigation into whether Zuma and his benefactors had paid taxes on possible donations.

The party also asked Zuma to take leave of absence from office until the allegations were "dealt with".

According to DA MP Tim Harris, the benefits could be classified as donations under tax legislation. "According to section 60(1) of the Act, if a donor fails to pay donations tax within a prescribed three-month period, the donor and the donee will be jointly liable to pay the outstanding amount of donations tax," Harris said. This assumed that Zuma did not render services in exchange for the transfers. Otherwise, they could form part of the president's "gross income" and be subject to normal income tax.

Last week the M&G took the unusual step of not approaching Zuma or his benefactors for comment before publication, given recent moves by the authorities to interdict publications in possession of sensitive documents. However, an unconditional right of reply was offered to anyone named in the articles.

The ANC told journalists that it could not comment on Zuma's "private" financial affairs.

Tired trick
The Young Communist League's Mawethu Rune said the leaked report was an attempt to influence the ANC's Mangaung conference but would only strengthen Zuma's prospects of re-election. "This use of some within state prosecution to subject the president in a media trial before the ANC conference, using lies that were reinvented, recycled and repackaged … is a tired trick that will never succeed," Rune said.

Most of Zuma's benefactors named in the KPMG report could either not be reached this week or would not comment. Nelspruit businessperson Nora Fakude-Nkuna, whose company, Bohlabela Wheels, allegedly paid R34 200 to the architects designing Zuma's Nkandla homestead, asked why she had not been contacted earlier. "The damage has already been done,"  she said.

South Africa's former ambassador to France, Barbara Masekela, asked to comment on the report's claims that she had sought a relationship with arms deal bidder Thomson CSF through businessperson Jurgen Kogl, said: "I have nothing to say to you because you wrote things about me and now you want to call me."

The report alleges that Kogl's Cay Nominees transferred more than R1-million to or on behalf of Zuma. Kogl refused to comment, saying "there are too many processes under way".

Asked for details of Zuma's R214–000 overdraft between 1996 and 2004, Nedbank said it respected client confidentiality. Standard Bank wrote off Zuma's R200000 bond account as bad debt in 2005. The bank said it too could not breach client confidentiality. Absa, which allowed Zuma to exceed his overdraft limit and ignored his bad credit record, failed to answer questions.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.