Schabir Shaik is a South African businessman from the Berea, Durban, who rose to prominence due to his close association with South African President Jacob Zuma during his time as Deputy President. On 2 June 2005, he was found guilty of corruption and fraud, which also led to the dismissal of Zuma two weeks later from his position as Deputy President.
A South African of Indian origin, Shaik studied electrical engineering at the M.L. Sultan Technikon, but was caught cheating in a High Voltage Engineering T5 exam on 28 May 1990 and was barred for 12 months. He claimed to have obtained a master's degree, but no record of this was found at the Technikon; he later admitted he did not earn the qualification.
He had a long-standing friendship with Jacob Zuma, who needed assistance with his finances after returning from political exile in Mozambique in 1990. Zuma had been elected Chairperson of the African National Congress, and Shaik assisted him financially, mostly in the form of interest-free loans with no date of repayment.
On 27 February 1995, Shabir Shaik established a company known as Nkobi Holdings, using the family name of the late ANC Treasurer Thomas Nkobi, without consent and approval of the Nkobi family.
Nkobi Holding was initially wholly owned by Shaik. The shareholding went through various permutations subsequently, however Shaik was at all relevant times a director of, and exercised effective control over, all the corporate entities within the Nkobi group.
In 1994 he failed in an effort that would have seen Malaysian partners paying off the ANC's huge R 40 million overdraft, which was taken out in preparation for the 1994 general election. His brother, Chippy Shaik, was in charge of arms acquisition at the Department of Defence, which allowed Shaik to bid on a lucrative contract to supply Valour class patrol corvettes to the South African Navy.
On 21 May 1996, Nkobi Holdings and the French defence contractor Thomson-CSF went into a joint venture as Thomson Holdings, a South African company. It tendered for various contracts, among which the upgrading of Durban International Airport, a national identity card, road projects for the N3 and N4 highways, the third cellular telephone network, and smart card technology. A company called Kobitech which is part of the Nkobi Holdings group, was initially a one-third shareholder in a consortium (under the name Prodiba) to produce the South African driving licence card. The first card was produced on 2 March 1998, a contract that was initially awarded for 5 years, later extended and then renewed for another 5-year period ending on 28 March 2009. During the second half of 2007 Kobitech sold their share in Prodiba to one of the remaining shareholders, Face Technologies.
Fraud and corruption
Shaik was put on trial for fraud and corruption at the Durban High Court from 11 October 2004. During the course of the trial, Shaik admitted that he falsified his qualifications and business achievements.
The trial ended on 4 May 2005, with Judge Hilary Squires delivering his verdict on 2 June. Shaik was found guilty on two counts of corruption and one count of fraud, with judge Squires stating in his 165-page verdict that there was "overwhelming" evidence of a corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma. The fraud charge related to testimony by Ahmed Paruk, Shaik's auditor, that Shaik held a meeting with him and Shaik's financial manager, where it was agreed that false journal entries be made to alter Nkobi Holdings' financial statements. The second corruption charge relates to alleged attempts to solicit a bribe to Zuma from Thomson CSF.
On 8 June he was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on each of the two counts of corruption, as well as 3 years on the count of fraud. The sentences will run concurrently, giving him an effective 15-year prison term. He has been given leave to appeal against this sentence on 26 July, and his bail has been extended until then. His appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal failed on 6 November
On 2 October 2007 his appeal to the Constitutional Court for his conviction and sentence for corruption and fraud was turned down with the court ruling that "An appeal against conviction and sentence does not bear any reasonable prospect of success".
However, the court ruled that there might be a constitutional issue related to the seizure of assets belonging to him and his company and granted leave to appeal on that point. The court dismissed this appeal in April 2008. Prosecutor in the case, Anton Steynberg, said afterwards that Shaik's only option now is to petition then-President Kgalema Motlanthe.
On 3 March 2009 Shaik was released on medical parole, after serving two years and four months of his 15-year prison term. The head of cardiology at Inkosi Albert Lutuli hospital in Durban, Professor DP Naidoo, personally discharged Shaik in December 2008 because he was considered well enough to leave. However, Shaik remained in the ward until his parole. There have been several accusations of Shaik violating the terms of his parole – including staying at Thanda Private Game Reserve for three nights in June 2009. The Department of Correctional Services said Shaik's parole officer had given him permission to recuperate in a luxury lodge.
References in popular culture
In November 2006 the South African comic strip Madam & Eve ran a series of strips lampooning Shaik's arrival in prison, followed in March 2009 by a series lampooning Shaik's dismissal. South African comedian Trevor Noah has often ridiculed Shaik, calling him "South Africa's Chuck Norris", due to his rather violent nature.
- IOL: Shaik, Zuma deals «against the Constitution», 6 November 2006
- SAPA "Schabir Shaik's final appeal dismissed", Politicsweb.co.za, 3 October 2007.
- For more details about the court judgment, see Schabir Shaik trial.
- Opposition slams release of Schabir Shaik M&G
- Expert: Shaik's release strange News24
- Parole only for terminally ill, says judge M&G
- 'I discharged Shaik months ago from hospital' IOL
- Schabir Shaik's parole paradise M&G
- Shaik had 'permission' to use luxury retreat Shaik was also photografed enjoying a round of Golf as well as Smoking Cuban Cigars.IOL
- News24 – Shaik loses appeal 02/10/2007 11:24 – (SA)
- The Schabir Shaik trial story in short from the Arms Deal Virtual Press Office
- Schabir Shaik on Trial, a special feature from SABCnews.com
- Other news coverage of the trial: BBC News, News24, Independent Online, Mail & Guardian
- Full text of the judgement
- The Nkobi Clan Distances itself from Shaik's Nkobi Holdings from the Arms Deal Virtual Press Office