n Annual Survey of South African Law - The administration of justice

Volume 2006, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0376-4605



The prosecution of Schabir Shaik could well be described as the most important criminal trial with a direct impact on national political life in post-apartheid South Africa. It differed significantly from the apartheid-era political trials which, in the main, were trials of ideology (ie prosecutions of persons committed to a democratic polity in South Africa). The Shaik trial had strongly overt political overtones, but it was undoubtedly also a trial about fraud and corruption. What attracted so much interest was the alleged relationship between Shaik and Jacob Zuma while the latter held high office, including the Deputy Presidency of the Republic. The indictment alleged that between 1994 and 1999 Shaik paid Zuma substantial sums of money (in excess of one million rand) in order to influence Zuma to use his name and political influence for the benefit of Shaik's business enterprises and as an ongoing reward for having done so. The High Court (Squires J, brought from retirement to preside) found that Shaik was guilty of a contravention of s 1(1)(a) of the Corruption Act 94 of 1992 in relation to such payments and that Shaik had bribed Zuma to protect a French armaments company from exposure to official investigation. Shaik was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment (see 2007 (1) SACR 142 (D)). The trial court also made an order directing Shaik to forfeit the proceeds of his crimes in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998.

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