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Vol 46 No 12

Published 10th June 2005

South Africa

Corruption and conviction

A 15-year gaol sentence for the Deputy President's advisor tests the government's accountability and its unity

Text message jokes were flashing across South Africa this week. 'Jacob Zuma and Schabir Shaik are together in a car. Who's driving?' Answer: 'The Police!' This debunking of Jacob Gedleyhlekisa Zuma, heir apparent and one of South Africa's most popular politicians, would have been unthinkable just months ago. But the conviction and sentencing of Zuma's Financial Advisor, Schabir Shaik, on 8 June on three counts of corruption and fraud has raised new doubts about the Deputy President's judgement and his actions. At the heart of the eight-month Shaik trial was an investigation into allegations of corruption linked to South Africa's US$6 billion arms procurement deal. During that investigation in 2003, Zuma denied that he had sought a bribe from the French company, Thales, now known as Thomson CSF. That point was a key element in the state's case against Shaik, and Judge Hilary Squires concluded that Shaik had in fact solicited a bribe on behalf of Zuma.

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