Johannesburg - Former spy chief Moe Shaik has to hit the ground running in his new job - heading a yet-to-be established subsidiary on Africa-wide infrastructure development at the Development Bank of SA (DBSA).
Having spent the past three months on an executive leadership course at Harvard Business School in the US, Shaik was somewhat reluctant to be interviewed, telling Independent Newspapers he wanted first to check with his new bosses.
The DA has already questioned the appointment, promising it would ask Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to explain it. “South Africans need to be assured that appropriate processes have been followed and that Moe Shaik has not simply been ‘deployed’ for political reasons,” said DA finance spokesman Tim Harris.
However, Gordhan has said he supports the appointment, in which the DBSA has indeed followed “proper processes”.
Shaik had been rated the best candidate of the two who remained after the initial list of nine had been whittled down to four for a series of interviews and psychometric tests, he added.
Shaik, according to Gordhan, had been appointed because of “strong analytical skills and a deep understanding of national priorities, all of which can be partly attributed to the various positions that he has occupied in government since 1994”.
DBSA board chairman Jabu Moleketi said there was confidence in Shaik. The new position required strategic leadership and a demonstrable ability to operate at the highest level.
Moleketi said plans were in place to have the first memorandum of understanding for the DBSA’s new subsidiary, Development Bank International (DBI), in place by the end of this financial year.
The aim was for the DBI to pursue joint ventures with an infrastructure focus in an effort to promote integration across the continent. Building a road or railway from a mine to an export centre of primary resources did not necessarily benefit a country’s citizens, nor did it build local economies.
In Africa, it was important to ensure African leaders set the agenda, said Moleketi, adding partnerships would be key.
The DBI would be established under SA laws, with clear governance and ethics criteria and in line with Reserve Bank requirements.
Before his falling-out with State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, Shaik moved comfortably in intelligence and international relations circles.
Following a post in the post-1994 state intelligence service, he moved to foreign affairs in 1997. The following year he was appointed consul-general in Hamburg, Germany, and then then ambassador to Algeria. From 2003 he held positions as ministerial special adviser to then foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and policy chief in the foreign affairs department.
The former ANC intelligence operative became a household name during the 2003 Hefer Commission hearings when he testified about the claim that the then prosecutions boss Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid-era spy listed on his database of such alleged informers. The commission found there was no basis for such claims.
Shaik resigned from foreign affairs in October 2005 - it emerged in a parliamentary reply that he had taken 78 days’ leave since 2004 to attend his brother Schabir’s fraud and corruption trial - to head Nkobi Holdings. This came after the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the fraud and bribery conviction of Schabir Shaik, former financial adviser to President Jacob Zuma.
In 2009 he was appointed to head the foreign division of the State Security Agency, which was being established through the amalgamation of spy structures, but left in May this year after the falling out with Cwele.
Shaik was CEO at CorpAfrica, which the official DBSA announcement of his appointment described as “providing consultancy services in the field of cash-flow management planning, legal affairs, regulatory compliance, sustainability planning, review of assets and reputation”.