We’ll believe him ... Shaik’s miraculous decade of terminal illness
After 10 years of freedom, fraudster insists he's still very ill, and his doctor stands by his original diagnosis
In defiance of medical convention and against the best predictions of a team of doctors, convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik has survived a decade since his release from prison on medical parole.
Both Shaik and his doctor have insisted to Times Select that the correct medical decision was taken at the time.
It was a sunny March day in 2009 when Shaik – former financial adviser and close aide to erstwhile president Jacob Zuma – was quietly moved by ambulance from Durban’s specialist Nkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital to his home in the leafy suburb of Musgrave on the city’s ridge.
Since his release the quiet cosmopole has been spotted at restaurants and coffee shops, and even hit the links at the Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course in Reservoir Hills, all while facing the ticking clock of terminal illness.
Times Select contacted Shaik last week, and he said his blood pressure issues still plagued him.
“Today I am not well at all ... my blood pressure you know ... I can’t talk now actually because I am very sick,” he said while coughing.
He abruptly ended the call, and later apologised that his ill health had cut short an interview about his decade beyond prison bars.
Shaik’s proximity to the former president was no secret, with Zuma often referring to his financial adviser has a “brother”.
Shaik had, according to a forensic report that formed the cornerstone of the state’s case when they first pursued Zuma in 2007, managed all facets of the then deputy president’s financial affairs.
This included paying hospital bills‚ debts‚ rent‚ vehicles‚ bonds‚ traffic fines‚ wives‚ school fees‚ kids’ pocket money and ANC membership. Even a R10 car wash and vacuum, according to a forensic audit done by KPMG.
Zuma had, the state held, used his position in government to further the business interests of Shaik and French arms firm Thint, in exchange for money.
The document showed Shaik’s astonishing largesse‚ as he funnelled R4,072,499 to Zuma in 783 separate payments between October 25 1995 and July 1 2005.
According to a spreadsheet in the KPMG report: “Shaik paid Zuma’s family travel and accommodation costs‚ including plane charter [R14,200]‚ the bill for Cape Town’s exclusive Twelve Apostles Hotel‚ car rental costs and air tickets.
He also paid R44,100 for “Zuma family travel costs” for a trip to Cuba [tickets and allowance] on December 13 2002.
Shaik’s Nkobi Group paid for school books and school fees for Zuma’s children to attend, among others, Sacred Heart College‚ the University of Zululand‚ Pretoria Boys High‚ St Catherine’s‚ Cape Technikon and the International School of Cape Town.
Zuma wore designer clothes thanks to his benefactor‚ who also paid for his cars to be fuelled.
The forensic audit showed Shaik had paid R21,000 to the ANC to settle Zuma’s outstanding party levies, and settled a traffic fine for him, worth R150.
The charges would eventually be thrown out of court and Zuma ascended to the throne of the ruling party.
But for his role Shaik was convicted on graft charges and sentenced to 15 years behind bars, but would only serve 28 months, most of which were spent in the hospital suites of Netcare St Augustine’s and Nkosi Albert Luthuli.
His protracted hospital stays formed the basis for a recommendation that he be released on medical parole, a clause in SA’s penal system which allows terminally ill prisoners to see out their twilight days with their families. When his application was being considered, his doctors told the parole board that he was in “the final phase of a terminal disease”.
They held that he was also clinically depressed‚ losing his eyesight‚ had suffered a stroke‚ and would die from “severe” high blood pressure.
In a 2008 report, Professor DP Naidoo told the head of Durban’s Westville Prison that Shaik could “not be kept in hospital indefinitely”.
Naidoo is the head of cardiology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.
“Since the prison authorities are reluctant to manage him at the prison hospital, where conditions are sub-optimal, we recommend that he be considered for medical parole.”
The report details Shaik’s admission to the intensive care unit at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban at that time, and details how the “ECG showed changes compatible with an acute myocardial injury pattern which, if not acted upon urgently, may have led to a heart attack”.
But a decade after Shaik’s liberation, Naidoo remains steadfast in his diagnosis.
“I don’t like to speak about this but what I can say is that I stand by my recommendation that hospital was not the right place for him,” he said.
He would not be drawn on whether his recommendation, and Shaik’s shock triumph over terminal illness, had been a blight on his medical career.
While on parole Shaik applied to the parole board to have his conditions relaxed to better accommodate his lifestyle.
In 2015 the board capitulated, with Shaik allowed to work from 8am to 6.30pm from Monday to Friday‚ attend his son’s school functions and a play a sport once a week.