June 9, 2005

Zuma aide jailed for bribery

Schabir Shaik, an aide to Jacob Zuma, the South African deputy president, was jailed for 15 years for bribing the politician. Judge Hilary Squires handed Shaik mandatory 15-year sentences on each of two counts of corruption and three years on a third, all to run concurrently. He also fined Shaik's companies a total of nearly 4 million rand. Reading his much anticipated sentence, Judge Squires said corruption undermined the achievements of the anti-apartheid struggle, dismissing mitigating arguments about Shaik's role in the fight against racist rule in South Africa. "Far from carrying out the objectives of the struggle, this whole saga represents a subversion of it," Judge Squires said in a ruling which did not spare Mr Zuma's reputation. Analysts say the trial may end the politician's hopes of becoming president. Shaik was convicted of paying Mr Zuma approximately 1.3 million rand to help advance his business interests and of seeking a bribe for the deputy president from an arms firm in exchange for protection from a government probe. "These were no payments to a low salaried bureaucrat who was seduced into temptation," the judge said. "The higher the status of the beneficiary . . . the more serious the offence."
Mr Zuma had previously been seen as the front-runner to succeed the president, Thabo Mbeki, in 2009. Every African National Congress (ANC) deputy president has gone on to be party president for the past 50 years, and president since 1994. The case has also put Mr Mbeki in a tight spot, torn between his declared commitments to root out corruption, and the risks of alienating Mr Zuma's many supporters in the ANC and its partners in the ruling alliance. As some media and opposition politicians called for President Mbeki to announce the fate of his corruption implicated deputy, there was yet no sign as to when this would happen. "I don't know," said presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, asked when Mbeki was expected to make an announcement. (The Scotsman / The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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