Zuma breaks silence on why he did not testify in Shaik trial

Former president Jacob Zuma’s last-ditch application to stop his corruption prosecution from going ahead does not appear to pose any real threat to the state’s plans to put him on trial this year - but it does contain one very damaging admission that may be used against him if he goes on trial.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s last-ditch application to stop his corruption prosecution from going ahead does not appear to pose any real threat to the state’s plans to put him on trial this year - but it does contain one very damaging admission that may be used against him if he goes on trial.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

Former President Jacob Zuma’s last-ditch application to stop his corruption prosecution from going ahead does not appear to pose any real threat to the state’s plans to put him on trial this year — but it does contain one very damaging admission that may be used against him if he goes on trial.

For the first time, Zuma has revealed why he chose not to testify in the trial of his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik, who was convicted in 2005 of corrupting him with multiple payments and benefits, and facilitating a R500,000 a year bribe for him from French arms company Thales.

Zuma has argued for years that he should have been tried with Shaik, but has now told the Constitutional Court that he would only have taken the stand in the case if he has guaranteed immunity from prosecution.

Absent an unequivocal grant of immunity by the NPA to me it would have been ill-conceived and highly risky for me to testify for Shaik without waiving my guaranteed constitutional rights, including rights to silence and against self-incrimination

“Absent an unequivocal grant of immunity by the NPA to me it would have been ill-conceived and highly risky for me to testify for Shaik without waiving my guaranteed constitutional rights, including rights to silence and against self-incrimination,” Zuma states.

This admission opens Zuma up to questions about whether he believes his conduct in relation to Shaik, and any evidence he may have given in the case, would have implicated him in corruption.

Zuma’s apparent candour on this score stands in marked contrast to the relatively restrained submissions he made to the Supreme Court of Appeal, in his failed bid to challenge the Pietermaritzburg High Court’s dismissal of his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

In a 115-page application filed at the Constitutional Court, the former president has also launched a renewed attack on the “vicious” National Prosecuting Authority, who he blames for his “routine” portrayal as “a corrupt politician who accepts bribes”.

In that regard, Zuma slams the “despicable” conduct of former National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka, who, against the advice of the Shaik prosecutors, elected not to charge the then deputy president with Shaik.

Ngcuka stated at the time that, although there was a “prima facie” case against Zuma, it was not necessarily a winnable one.

“I was tarred and feathered as a criminal suspect but I could never disprove that label as I was never formally brought before a court of law until 2005 or told what evidence exists to justify the label,” Zuma argues.

Zuma repeatedly stresses that, because he was not charged with Shaik, “I as an unindicted person was and continue to be branded as a “criminal” with all the accompanying damage to my reputation”. 

He adds that “because of the nature of this case, the unindicted co-conspirator is labelled as “corrupt politician” who takes bribes and ethnic stereotypes such as “being controlled by Indians” were invoked, thus multiplying any damage done to my name.”


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