Shaik knock-out

2008-05-31 00:00

It’s not really surprising that the Constitutional Court has dismissed convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik’s application to have over R33 million of his assets — forfeited after his fraud and corruption conviction in 2005 — returned to him. The high court had found, and the Supreme Court of Appeal had agreed, that these monies accrued to Shaik as a result of the “corrupt payments” made to Jacob Zuma.

The Constitutional Court’s decision will surely put an end to the complaints from Shaik, his brothers and assorted cohorts, and to his attempts to squirm through legal loopholes. May we hope that it will do more than this and actually contribute to the fight against corruption?

Writing on behalf of the court, Justice Kate O’Regan rightly held that corruption is inimical to the values of our Constitutional order and that South Africa is obliged to fight it. Alas, how far we fall short of this ideal. One indication of this is the proven fact of those “corrupt payments” made to Zuma. All we know currently is that Zuma received this tainted money, not that he knew its source or the base reason for its disbursement to him. Will we ever learn the truth, and if we do, will it affect his political future in any way?

Another sign that we fail to meet constitutional standards of honesty is that Shaik’s is the only important corruption case that has actually gone to trial. A third sign resides in the attitude of South African society as whole towards corruption in high places. A huge majority does not believe theft of public funds to be wrong.

Anyone, therefore, who believes that the outcome of the Shaik application sets a healthy precedent, and that corruption is on the way out, is sadly deluded.

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