Siyabonga Ntshingila
Siyabonga Ntshingila

With friends like Schabir Shaik, does Zuma need enemies?

President Jacob Zuma must be feeling pretty miffed right about now. I certainly would be if I was in his place.

Even accepting — as our legal system has and we certainly must respect their decision not to proceed — that the president was not in any way involved in corrupt activities with Schabir Shaik, and that Zuma was not involved in his medical parole in the legitimate-if-fishier-than-the-Victoria-Street-market circumstances, the fact is that the two are inextricably linked in the eyes of the public.

There has simply been way too much allegedly going on, with both heavily implicated, for the perception to be otherwise.

So in light of this — and their longstanding friendship — one would have thought that having been given a free pass out of prison, (who knew a terminal illness could have an upside?) Schabir would do the decent thing and at the very least keep a low profile.

Especially since the media in South Africa is always itching for a reason — real, tenuous or downright imagined — to nail the president … you know, Shaik looking out for a friend’s best interests and all of that.

But no, not our man Schabir.

From midday jaunts to supermarkets, (perhaps the pastry aisle helps the immune system) frequent rounds of golf (sunshine and fresh air I guess? Quality of life for the terminally ill and all that?) and now, if recent reports are to be believed, a slight leaning towards the more assertive approach to dispute resolution, Shaik is all about making headlines.

Maybe he is misunderstood. Or perhaps he is simply being hounded by the press.

Maybe the unaccompanied trips to the supermarket are just his way of trying to live as normal a life as possible with the burden of his illness. Perhaps it’s the fierce, proud defiance of a man who refuses to let the shadow of death prevent him from picking up some groceries.

And the alleged violence is simply a natural reaction to being hounded while at death’s door, right?

You know what they say about old lions and the context of their fiercest disposition.

Whatever it is though, I am certainly not alone in thinking that his good friend at Mahlamba Ndlopfu would really rather he was doing it in a tiny hamlet where no one knows him. Say Darwin, Australia.