Schabir Shaik wants his presidential pardon – and his R2 million loan back from President Jacob Zuma – the man whom, according to a court finding, he bribed.
It is more than three years since Shaik applied for his presidential pardon. He is no closer now to finding out if he will get his much-sought-after freedom and nor has he heard from Zuma, a former close friend.
Offered a plea bargain by the state before he went on trial, Shaik said he chose to remain silent for fear of being assassinated and because of his loyalty to his “comrades”.
Shaik last week said he felt used.
“Now that Shaik is a dried up well, the Guptas are the flavour. I have been used and abused,” said Shaik.
The wealthy Gupta family, who arrived in the country from India in the early 90s, are close to the president. Among other companies, they own the New Age newspaper and have interests in mining.
Shaik said he had not heard from Zuma since he became president, despite their having been in constant contact previously. And neither has he been repaid what he maintains was a R2 million loan to Zuma. It is believed that the initial loan amount of R2.5m, primarily used for Zuma’s children’s upkeep and educational needs, was part of a loan agreement drawn up by an attorney (whose name is known to the Tribune). Only R500 000 of that amount has reportedly been paid to Shaik by Zuma.
Shaik, Zuma’s former financial advisor, was convicted of corruption and fraud in 2005 by the Durban High Court and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, ending effectively in 2021.
He spent little time in prison, serving his sentence in hospitals on the grounds he was terminally ill.
In March 2009, he was released on medical parole and then applied for a presidential pardon.
Shaik’s release on parole was widely condemned, with the ID’s Patricia De Lille describing it as disgusting. She asked for details about other prisoners still in prison, whom she said had far more serious ailments than Shaik’s high blood pressure, depression and chest pains.
Next month, the Supreme Court of Appeal will rule on an application by the DA that challenges the National Prosecuting Authority’s and former director of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe’s decision to halt Zuma’s prosecution on fraud and corruption charges in 2009.
To date there has been no word on Shaik’s pardon which, it is believed, rests largely on information related to the trial.
A major issue, according to the application, is that the country’s courts (the Durban High Court, the Appeal Court and the Constitutional Court) erred in their decision that Shaik was guilty.
The key points in the pardon application include details that a senior advocate (whose name is known to the Tribune) had approached Shaik’s legal representative, advocate Nirmal Singh SC, prior to the trial, seeking to strike a plea bargain with him on condition he (Shaik) spilled the beans. Shaik was asked to say:
* That the R2.5m loan between Zuma and Shaik was false and that Zuma had no interest in paying it back.
* That some of the public funds given to the ANC and Zuma were used by Zuma for his private use.
* That Zuma did request funds from a French arms company to build his house.
* That Zuma had asked Shaik to write off R180 000 in taxes into his company.
In exchange for Shaik’s confession, he would be offered indemnity from prosecution, be given full protection, his businesses would remain untouched and he would receive anything else he asked for.
But Shaik, in the application, claims he kept quiet “because I am a comrade”. He claims that he did not want to talk because he had been part of the struggle and valued his comrades, hoping those he protected would have done the right thing.
He said he also feared being assassinated if he did, indeed, reveal all he knew.
Shaik and his attorney, Reeves Parsee, said they were not at liberty to reveal the contents of the pardon application.
Zanele Mngadi, from Zuma’s office, last week referred the Tribune’s queries to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Department of Justice spokesman Tlali Tlali said Shaik’s application was before them and would be sent to the president for his consideration and decision.
“The president will make a decision as soon as he is able to do so, once all the administrative processes have fully been dispensed with and the application is presented to him for consideration,” said Tlali.
He would not be drawn on details of the application.
“In our view, an application of this nature is a confidential process,” said Tlali.
He said the department had been inundated with pardon applications and had thousands to deal with.
Shaik claimed he was running out of time.
“I am very ill and fear that my pardon may not come. But I am writing a book with all the details… with the truth laid bare,” said Shaik.
He also feels used and let down by Zuma.
“I was his economic adviser and then his financial adviser. I could have said so much about so many people and brought so many people down. But I kept quiet thinking that they would do the right thing. Three years have gone by. This is another ploy. If his (Zuma’s) conscience was clear, then the day he became president he should have ordered this probe into the arms deal. I have been let down, used and thrown away,” said Shaik.
He said the trial and its outcome had taken a huge toll on him, but that his family had been the greatest victim.
“My wealth… I can build again, but I can never, ever make up for the time lost with my family. They have been the biggest victim in all of this. My wife and son live apart from me. I went to prison when my son was five months old and came back when he was two-and-half. We have still not bonded properly. He is going to school now and I want to be able to see him dress and go to school, I want my wife next to me again. But I can’t have all of that,” said Shaik.
His parole conditions allow him to leave his home for four hours daily and for eight hours a day on weekends. He is not allowed to leave the Durban magisterial district without permission from the area commissioner and he is not allowed to work or be a director of any company.
“I have a bond to pay, medical expenses, car payments to make, my wife’s upkeep, my son’s education. I was a billionaire but now I live off family hand-outs. All my assets were taken from me,” said Shaik.
During his trial Shaik outlined his friendship with Zuma and explained how he had acted as a banker and conduit to receive and transport funds for the ANC to other countries like the UK when the organisation was banned.
Shaik said in his evidence at the time of the trial, “Over the years, a close friendship had developed between Zuma and myself as well as between our respective families, which endures to this day,” he said.
According to newspaper reports then, Zuma had confided to him in 1996 that he had serious financial problems and was considering leaving politics.
“I undertook to look into his affairs, to restructure his debt and/or to make arrangements with his creditors for the settlement thereof and to put his children on a bursary scheme in my group of companies. He was, however, insistent that he would only accept my assistance on the understanding that whatever funds I may spend on his behalf, would be repaid to me.
“I reluctantly agreed that such moneys as I may expend on his behalf would be regarded as loans to him, on the clear understanding that no interest would be payable due to my religious beliefs.”
Later, a formal acknowledgement of debt was drawn up at Zuma’s insistence.
This was later superseded by a loan agreement for a revolving loan of up to R2 million.
“Despite my protestations, Zuma insisted that an interest clause should be inserted. I told him I would donate any interest I may receive to charity.”
Zuma, after the case was dropped, said he had paid a portion of the loan.
“I paid back some of the money. When I got my pension, I paid Schabir Shaik, which was from the MK Pensions Fund. It is on the record in court documents that there were loans. I paid it a long time ago; when I was in KwaZulu-Natal (Zuma was economic affairs MEC) I repaid part of the loan. I have no hidden agenda on that,” Zuma was quoted in newspaper reports as saying at the time