Shaiking off his shackles, Zuma’s pal is free and ready to splab all
Freed after a decade on medical parole, he tells Times Select about his new life and the memoirs he’s writing
Schabir Shaik, the one-time high-flying financial adviser to former president Jacob Zuma, got to sample life as a free man for about two months before SA went into lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Shaik was freed in early February after being on medical parole for more than a decade, after doctors declared he was in the final phase of a terminal disease.
The man Zuma often referred to as “brother” and with whom he shared a close relationship was found guilty of fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.
He was released on medical parole in March 2009‚ after serving just more than two years.
Zuma is accused of allegedly using his position in government to further the business interests of Shaik and French arms firm Thales in exchange for money.
Thales allegedly discussed paying Zuma R500‚000 a year in return for protection against a probe into the company related to the controversial multibillion-rand arms deal.
It takes a while for the mind to adjust to being free. It’s a strange thing ...Schabir Shaik
The alleged “bribe” was facilitated by Shaik, who is expected to be called to testify in the revived trial against Zuma and Thales, provisionally set down for June 23 in the Pietermaritzburg high court.
During Shaik’s criminal trial, the court heard how he ran almost every aspect of Zuma’s financial affairs for almost 10 years, from paying hospital bills and debts to rent‚ vehicles‚ bonds‚ traffic fines‚ funds for wives‚ school fees‚ pocket money for children and ANC membership.
Speaking from his plush Morningside, Durban, home on Thursday, Shaik said: “I can’t tell you what a relief it is. But I must say, the real criminals are walking around out there.”
I can’t tell you what a relief it is. But I must say, the real criminals are walking around out there.Schabir Shaik
Shaik did not make any direct reference to Zuma during the 10-minute interview, except to say he believed in karma.
“It’s nice to be free. It was so hard, I tell you. It impacted on my mind and soul. I couldn’t work and my health was not very good.”
He said his health issues, including high blood pressure, were driven by the losses he suffered.
“It was not just the R14.5bn I lost, but the loss of my family, my only son, that had a direct impact on my mental health. It made me depressed.
“I had to leave my wife and son when he was just five months old and go to prison. That was the biggest hit.
“It seems the lockdown is like a divine message, ‘keep this man locked up for another six months or so’.
“The lockdown has been like bringing out my survival kit and reliving my experience again,” he said.
Despite “Shaik sightings” at popular Durban eateries and a golf course, he said he was still adjusting to life as a free man.
“It takes a while for the mind to adjust to being free. It’s a strange thing ...
“I prayed the entire day and night when I learnt that I was a free man. It was through God’s will that I survived these 15 years.
“There has been introspection and lessons for me throughout this.
“There were things I should have done more when I was a billionaire, like give more to the needy and charity.
“In business you get a sense of arrogance, because you have a president on one side and a deputy president on the other side.
“I think God, in his wisdom, teaches us lessons. When he loves you, he brings you down to earth.
“The last thing in the world I want to do is acquire and possess and possess.”
Shaik said he regretted losing family, charity and prayer time.
“My wife left me for four years and took my son away. It left me in a great depression. But we are united again.”
He is now channelling his energy into compiling a tell-all book and importing personal protective equipment.
“I think people will laugh and cry, and be amazed by some of the stories that I will mention.”
Singabakho Nxumalo, correctional services spokesperson confirmed Shaik was a free man.
“He is out of our parole system completely.”