‘Terminally ill’ paroled fraudster survives medical prognosis 10 years on

Schabir Shaik
Schabir Shaik
Image: TimesLive

In defiance of medical convention and against the best predictions of a team of doctors, convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik has survived a decade since his release from prison on medical parole.

Both Shaik and his doctor have insisted that the correct medical decision was taken at the time.

It was a sunny March day in 2009 when Shaik – former financial adviser and close aide to erstwhile president Jacob Zuma – was quietly moved by ambulance from Durban’s specialist Nkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital to his home, set in the leafy green suburb of Musgrave on the city’s ridge.

Since his release, the quiet cosmopole has been spotted at restaurants and coffee shops and even hit the links at the Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course in Reservoir Hills, all while facing the ticking clock of terminal illness.

Times Select contacted Shaik last week and he said his blood pressure issues still plagued him.

“Today I am not well at all

. . . my blood pressure you know . . . I can’t talk now actually because I am very sick,” he said while coughing.

He abruptly ended the call, and later apologised that his ill health had cut short the interview.

Shaik’s proximity to the former president was no secret, with Zuma often referring to him as a “brother”.

Shaik had, according to a forensic report which formed the cornerstone of the state’s case when they first pursued Zuma in 2007, managed all facets of the then deputy president’s financial affairs.

This included paying hospital bills‚ debts‚ rent‚ vehicles‚ bonds‚ traffic fines‚ wives‚ school fees‚ kids’ pocket money and ANC membership.

Even a R10 car wash and vacuum were included, according to a forensic audit done by KPMG.

Zuma had, the state held, used his position in government to further the business interests of Shaik and French arms firm Thint, in exchange for money.

The document showed Shaik’s astonishing largesse‚ as he funnelled R4,072,499 to Zuma in 783 separate payments between October 25 1995 and July 1 2005.

According to a spreadsheet in the KPMG report: “Shaik paid Zuma’s family travel and accommodation costs.

“Those included a plane charter [R14,200]‚ the bill for Cape Town’s exclusive Twelve Apostles Hotel‚ car rental costs and air tickets.”

He also paid R44,100 for “Zuma family travel costs” for a trip to Cuba [tickets and allowance] on December 13 2002.

Shaik’s Nkobi Group paid for school books and school fees for Zuma’s children to attend, among others, Sacred Heart College‚ the University of Zululand‚ Pretoria Boys High‚ St Catherines‚ Cape Technikon and the International School of Cape Town.

The charges would eventually be thrown out of court and Zuma ascended to the throne of the ruling party.

But for Shaik’s role, he was convicted on graft charges and sentenced to 15 years behind bars, but would only serve 28 months, most of which were spent in the hospital suites of Netcare St Augustine’s and Nkosi Albert Luthuli.

His protracted hospital stays formed the basis for a recommendation that he be released on medical parole, a clause in SA’s penal system which allows terminally ill prisoners to see out their twilight days with their families.

When his application was being considered, his doctors told the parole board that he was in the final phase of a terminal disease.

They held he was also clinically depressed‚ losing his eyesight‚ had suffered a stroke‚ and would die from “severe” high blood pressure.

In a 2008 report, Professor DP Naidoo told the head of Durban’s Westville Prison that Shaik could “not be kept in hospital indefinitely”.

“Since the prison authorities are reluctant to manage him at the prison hospital, where conditions are sub-optimal, we recommend he be considered for medical parole.”