Groucho Marx memorably said that he wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would be so undiscriminating as to have him as a member. That’s clearly not a life philosophy shared by Schabir Shaik, former financial bagman for President Jacob Zuma and now paroled convict.
This week a birdie whispered in my ear that Shaik has applied for membership of the august Durban Country Club (DCC), founded in 1922 and of which the golf course is rated as being among the top 100 in the world. There’s a great deal of unhappiness among some members at the prospect of having to rub shoulders with the Shabby Sheik — who was in 2005 sentenced to 15 years in prison for fraud and corruption but served only 28 months, most of it under questionable circumstances in a comfortably appointed private hospital suite.
Shaik was granted a medical parole in 2009 because he was supposedly terminally ill with a heart complaint. Since then he has transformed into cardiology’s poster boy for the miraculously recuperative effects of power shopping and aggressive golfing.
Aware of the member outrage, the DCC, which counts among its members the cream of Durban’s legal and business fraternities, has tried to handle Shaik’s application as discreetly as possible. But already a petition is circulating, demanding that he be turned down.
As is the custom, Shaik has been granted temporary membership while his application is scrutinised. However, the DCC has met with him and warned that there is “a groundswell” against him being accepted, though he will be given an opportunity to address the objections.
The petition, already signed by about five dozen members, notes that Shaik, albeit on parole, is a “convicted criminal whose sentence still has many years to run”. Should his application be granted it would “cause much adverse comment” among the media and the public, which “may well bring the club into disrepute and tarnish its good name”.
The petition also demands that the DCC board and membership committee investigate the “truth or otherwise of golf-related allegations” made against Shaik. This presumably refers to two golfing incidents in which Shaik was accused of assault.
In 2011, Sunday Tribune journalist Amanda Khoza and freelance photographer Charmel Bowman were tipped-off that Shaik was possibly contravening his parole by playing at the Papwa Sewgowlum golf course in Durban. When they approached him, Shaik reportedly grabbed Khoza around the neck and slapped her.
A month later at a Durban mosque he allegedly slapped and punched a worshipper whose vehicle had been parked in by Shaik. Although charges were not pressed, Shaik was arrested and held by Correctional Services for 72 hours and asked to explain his actions regarding both incidents.
In 2013, there was another fracas at the Papwa Sewgowlum. The police were called after a caddie claimed that Shaik – whose belligerence had by then on social media earned him the sobriquet of “South Africa’s Chuck Norris”, after the Hollywood bruiser – had beaten him with a golf club, trampled him with spiked golf shoes and called him a “kaffir”. According to the Mercury, the caddie opened a case but it was withdrawn after he accepted R500 as recompense.
At the time, Shaik was quoted in the Star as saying, “I play at golf courses all over KwaZulu-Natal, but it is only at Papwa where they have a problem. If I had a Chuck Norris syndrome, surely I would be having a problem with all the caddies at all the golf courses in KZN?”
In the light of Shaik’s apparent low tolerance of golfing frustrations, it is not surprising that DCC players are skittish. And since parole conditions routinely forbid parolees from being on licensed premises, DCC has stipulated that Shaik must procure a letter from correctional services stating that his membership would not be in violation of his parole regulations.
But as it fortuitously – and no doubt coincidentally – happens, correctional services this week relaxed Shaik’s parole conditions. A correctional services spokesperson said that they had not had “any problem [with Shaik] in the last number of months” and as a result of this, he was entitled to eased conditions.
No doubt to celebrate the rewards of his streak of good behaviour, Shaik promptly threatened to headbutt a journalist interviewing him regarding the parole changes. In a tirade directed at News24’s reporter Giordano Stolley, Shaik warned, “I will kick you in your poes” – using the Afrikaans term for female genitalia – and “I will break you white boy.”
Given this history, the DCC’s manicured greens will certainly be enlivened by Shaik’s antics if they do open their doors to him. And given his apparently rude health, it clear that he is more likely to be causing heart attacks than being the victim of one.
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