Another View: Dropping Zuma’s name is nothing new

2013-05-27 10:00

What’s in a name? About R1.3?million if you ask Schabir Shaik.

That’s the total of the 238 bribes Shaik paid to President Jacob Zuma between 1995 and 2002 to be able to drop Zuma’s name in his business ventures.

It was all working out fine for Shaik until the secretary of arms company Thint handed over a bribe agreement she had typed to the company’s auditors, who handed it to the Scorpions in 2000.

Five years later, Shaik was convicted for bribing Zuma and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The R500?000-a-year bribe Shaik had negotiated for Zuma from Thint (as three courts found he did) was the end product of a series of name-droppings by Shaik.

I thought back to the hours of evidence led in the Shaik trial this week as Justice Minister Jeff Radebe asked for government’s disciplinary codes to be adapted to include name-dropping as an official offence.

On Thursday, Zuma asked for “vigilance” and urged state officials “not to succumb to pressure from name-droppers”.

As if Guptagate was the first time someone had dropped his name in business or government dealings.

Did the president forget about his meeting with Thint’s bosses in London in July 1998 after Shaik was excluded from the R1.3?billion arms deal to provide technology to the navy’s new corvettes?

At the time, Zuma was MEC for economic development and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal, and deputy president of the ANC.

Shaik’s Nkobi Holdings was removed as Thint’s BEE partner after then president Thabo Mbeki allegedly registered his disapproval with Shaik’s inclusion in the deal.

What did Shaik, who was Zuma’s financial adviser and bankroller in chief, do? He dropped Zuma’s name.

He did it first in letters to Thint’s bosses in Paris, and then in person when he delivered Zuma to a meeting with the arms company in July 1998. The consequence of Zuma’s intervention was that Shaik was back in the arms deal.

There were also other instances of serial name-dropping. Like when Professor John Lennon from Scotland was looking for a local partner to start up an ecotourism school in KwaZulu-Natal.

Shaik dropped Zuma’s name and Zuma delivered. The then ANC deputy president told Lennon to partner with Shaik. The episode upset him so much, Lennon testified, that he decided to cancel the project.

And what did Shaik do when he wanted in on the Point Development in Durban? He dropped Zuma’s name and succeeded in convincing the project’s international partner to meet Zuma.

At a private meeting with the businessman at Shaik’s apartment, Zuma asked him to take Shaik on board.

This evidence, and numerous other examples of Shaik’s name-dropping, were accepted by Judge Hilary Squires when he convicted Shaik of bribery and referred to his relationship with Zuma as a “mutually beneficial symbiosis”.

The judge remarked: “If Zuma could not repay money, how else could he do so than by providing the help of his name and political office as and when it was asked, particularly in the field of government-contracted work, which is what Shaik was hoping to benefit from. And Shaik must have foreseen and, by inference, did foresee, that if he made these payments Zuma would respond in that way.”

Although the man who is now our president was never tried for corruption himself, the record of the Shaik case tells a sorry tale of how he allowed his name to be dropped and abused for years in return for financial benefit.

Not once did Zuma stop Shaik from using his name or report him to law-enforcement agencies, as he now urges civil servants to do.

Zuma has only himself to blame if people like ambassador Bruce Koloane or the Gupta family, who employ his son and wife, continue to drop his name for their own benefit.

If he is not willing to publicly name and shame those guilty of abusing his name, government regulations or penalties won’t stop them either.

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