Durban – Schabir Shaik celebrated Eid this week as a free man.
Almost 15 years ago, on June 2, 2005, Shaik was convicted of two counts of corruption and one of fraud. The trial, in the Durban High Court, focused on
the relationship between Shaik, a businessman, and Jacob Zuma.
After democracy in 1994, Zuma began his career in government as an MEC for economic affairs and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal. He went on to become president in 2009.
Judge Hilary Squires, who presided over the trial, sentenced Shaik to two terms of 15 years for corruption and one term of three years for fraud. The sentences, which ran concurrently, meant Shaik was given a 15-year sentence.
Judge Squires allowed Shaik to appeal against his conviction on the fraud matter and one of the corruption matters.
In November 2006, the president of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Judge Craig Howie, with a bench of five judges, rejected the appeal. Shaik then reported to jail to start his sentence.
Shaik approached the Constitutional Court. His application to appeal his conviction and sentence was dismissed.
Two years and four months after going to prison, in March 2009, Shaik was released on medical parole on the grounds that he was terminally ill. He has spent
the time under house arrest at his home in Durban.
In December last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa approved the release of more than 14 500 offenders on pardons and remissions to mark Reconciliation Day.
At the time, Ramaphosa said: “Remissions of sentences are always carefully considered, taking into account the interests of the public and the administration of justice. We recognise that incarceration has followed a judicial process and that sentences have been duly imposed after conviction.”
Shaik, who by then had already served more than 13 years of his sentence, was among those considered. From the middle of January this year, he effectively became a free man.
This week, following the month-long Islamic fast of Ramadaan, he celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr free of house arrest.
When contacted, Shaik said: “No comment. I have no comment at
all. I just want to live a quiet and peaceful life.”
Frank Mbedzi, president of the South African Prison Organisation, said Shaik deserved a second chance.
“This case is an old case. We all know about the case. Getting medical parole was not a political move as people assume. People must stop saying that. People don’t want to forgive him even after all these years. Schabir has served his time. He is a free man. He needs to be given a second chance.”
Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, said that while Shaik was a free man, he had had an easy ride.
“He technically served his sentence but not much of it was behind bars.
He had an easy ride after getting his medical parole.”
Professor Karthy Govender, an expert on constitutional issues, said Shaik’s case was complicated because he was released under the provision that he had an incurable ailment and wanted to have a dignified death.
“He served two years until he was released of his 15-year jail sentence. How and why he has been allowed medical parole is a mystery considering that he’s still doing well. I would not say that he served his sentence, because he was only in for two years. I would say that the sentence is expired.”
Thulani Mdluli, spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services, confirmed
that Shaik’s sentence had expired.