From a beginning that warranted only a few lines in newspapers, to headline banners. This is the story of the arms deal. Here are some of the headlights.

  • January1997: Police investigate the circumstances surrounding the theft of classified military documents from Shamin "Chippy" Shaik's car during a robbery at his home. The suspects were reported to have fled with Shaik's wallet, watch and briefcase, which contained the documents. Shaik was not injured. Nobody was arrested. Shaik at the time was the director of the defence secretariat.

  • 1999: Government concludes the arms deal in controversial fashion.

  • March 1999: Altech sells its defence arm to Thomson-CSF. The controversial African Defence Systems, which would later win a billion-rand tender in the arms deal, is born.

  • September 1999: The first allegations of Deputy President Jacob Zuma's involvement in the arms deal are made. They are swiftly answered with a denial by the presidency.

  • November 2000:
  • A joint task team from the office of the auditor-general, the director of public prosecutions and the public protector gets the green light to look into the arms deal. It is estimated that the probe will cost millions.

  • African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni threatens to sue the Sunday Times over a story that he received a huge discount on a luxury 4x4 from a bidder in the arms deal.

  • The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) says the arms deal will be a crucial test for the South African democracy.

  • December 2000:
  • Shauket Fakie, who would eventually give the arms deal a clean bill of health in his report, is officially appointed as auditor-general.

  • Judge Willem Heath tries unsuccessfully to obtain a presidential proclamation to investigate the deal. He is removed as head of the investigative unit following a Constitutional Court judgment.

  • October 2001: Yengeni is arrested on charges of corruption. He later pleads guilty to a charge of defrauding parliament. He is sentenced to time in prison, but is appealing against his sentence.

  • November 2001:
  • Economists Allied for Arms Reduction applies to the Cape Town High Court to have the arms deal declared unconstitutional. "We cannot afford it," says Ecaar-SA's head, Terry Crawford Browne.

  • Chippy Shaik is suspended from the department of defence. He later resigns.

  • The joint task team finds no wrongdoing on the side of the government in the conclusion of the arms deal.

  • Schabir Shaik is arrested for the possession of secret documents.

  • July 2003:
  • Shaik says that the charges against him for possessing secret government documents are "Mickey Mouse". He vows to walk out of court a free man.

  • He is forced by a court to answer the Scorpions' questions about the arms deal, but appeals against this ruling to the Constitutional Court.

  • Mac Maharaj, the former transport minister, is being investigated for receiving payments from Shaik.

  • Experts report that the arms deal is finally paying off in terms of jobs created and contracts awarded to local firms by winning contractors.

  • Zuma is asked by the Scorpions to answer a series of questions about his relationship with Schabir Shaik.

  • August 2003:
  • Fakie is grilled in parliament over alleged changes made to the joint task team's report into the arms deal.

  • Zuma is let off the hook. Director of National Prosecuting Authority Bulelani Ngcuka says that even though they have prima facie corruption case against Zuma, the prospects of a successful prosecution are slim.

  • Schabir Shaik is charged with corruption, fraud and tax evasion relating to alleged bribes and payments he and his companies made to Zuma.