Shaik’s assistant ’knew too much’
Shaik’s assistant ’knew too much’
Wendy Jasson da Costa | Durban, South Africa
18 October 2004 03:26
Fraud and corruption accused Schabir Shaik’s former assistant Bianca Singh told the Durban High Court on Monday she had to sign a confidentiality clause on leaving his employ because she knew too much about his relationship with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Singh said their business relationship ended abruptly after an incident at his bungalow at a luxury resort in Mauritius.
She told the court she had accompanied Shaik to the Indian Ocean island to take notes at a meeting with Alain Thetard, a director of Thint — a subsidiary of arms company Thomson CSF.
She saw it as a way to enhance her career and although Shaik had given her explicit instructions not to tell anyone in the office about it, she did tell some relatives and close colleagues.
Shaik said it was important she take with her a file of newspaper stories she had started compiling about the arms deal.
At the meeting, they discussed the foreign-exchange problems of Prodiba, the driver’s licence card project. She said Shaik also said they had to do "damage control" about news stories on the arms deal.
Shaik asked Thetard if he was up to date with developments on the arms deal and handed him the cuttings file.
He said if the Heath investigating unit continued and if a "certain ANC [African National Congress] member opened his mouth", they would be in "real trouble".
The unit, headed by retired judge Willem Heath, had been given a dossier of allegations by politician Patricia de Lille and wanted President Thabo Mbeki to proclaim an investigation into the deal.
Heath was subsequently left out of an investigation by the national director of public prosecutions, the auditor general and the public protector.
Singh said Shaik then asked her if she was still minuting the meeting. The other people in the room became uncomfortable and she was asked to leave.
She sat in the reception area and heard raised voices through the door.
Later, Singh — a married mother — went to Shaik’s bungalow to hand over some documents and an "incident" took place.
Shaik’s advocate Francois Van Zyl objected to this statement and prosecutor Billy Downer told the judge that an "incident of a personal nature" had occurred, but the details were not disclosed.
Singh said she left the next day on the first available flight home. She left the folder containing the minutes and air tickets at the reception desk and asked that they be given to Shaik.
She never spoke to Shaik again and never returned to Nkobi Holdings.
One of Shaik’s brothers phoned to ask if she was "okay". Shaik’s lawyer Anand Moodley phoned to say a contract would be drawn up between Singh, Shaik and Kobifin so that she could be paid out for her services.
Moodley also told her Shaik insisted on a confidentiality clause because she knew too much about his relationship with Zuma.
She said she saw someone accompanying Shaik on Monday walk into the court carrying the same file.
The latest evidence comes from a diary for the year 2000, which Singh handed to the Scorpions a week ago.
She said she had forgotten about the diary and had stumbled on it when she was going through boxes at her home looking for memorabilia of school friends.
Earlier, she told the court of a phone call in which Shaik asked Zuma for help securing a slice of the arms deal.
All material copyright Mail&Guardian.