South Africa - Report

Scandal surrounding Jacob Zuma's spokesperson

Nicolas Champeaux/RFI

A spokesman for president Jacob Zuma has been linked to bribes from a French arms-maker during a South African three billion euro military procurement a dozen years ago.


The Sunday Times, South Africa’s largest-circulating newspaper, says it’s uncovered the paper trail leading from the French arms company Thales to presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj and his wife Zarina.

The newspaper claims Maharaj, who was then South Africa’s transport minister, took bribes between 1997 and 1999 from the French weapons firm which is at the centre of an arms deal probe. The report says he was paid 1.2 million French francs through an offshore bank account registered in his wife's name.

This was before Thales was awarded a credit card licence contract.

Zuma's former financial adviser and convicted fraudster Shabir Shaik's Swiss bank account was used as a conduit by Thales to channel the money to the Maharaj bank account.

Six years ago Shaik, was jailed for his role in soliciting bribes to Zuma prior to the awarding of arms contracts to Thales.

He has since been released on medical parole.

The arms purchase has been clouded by allegations of bribery to senior government officials and blemished South Africa's young democracy.

Last month the government appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate claims of corruption in the awarding of the country's largest military contracts.

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