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There’s not much most South Africans didn’t already know about the Bosasa scandal involving the late Gavin Watson, but the Zondo Commission’s latest findings merely aggravate the total state capture pertaining during Zuma’s presidency. We tend to think Gupta bothers when talking about state capture but our own homegrown Watsons – whose township rugby playing and coaching exploits back in the day earned them a place in ANC hearts – built a business model based on corruption and inside knowledge. The bane of every pilot and honest executive who fruitlessly tried to keep SAA in the air, Dudu Myeni took Louis Vuitton handbags full of cash from the Watsons, ostensibly for the Jacob Zuma Foundation she chaired. Corruption was ‘central’ to Bosasa’s business model, the commission found. The Financial Times report reminds the world that not only did the ANC’s leading lights rob the fiscus blind to enrich a small inside elite (not to mention several colluding global corporates), but that millions in ‘cash for favours’ was pioneered by locals. – Chris Bateman
S Africa judicial inquiry points to ‘widespread corruption’ under Zuma
By Joseph Cotterill
A South African logistics group won lucrative state contracts from Jacob Zuma’s government through “widespread corruption” and bags of cash, according to the latest report by a judicial inquiry into the looting of the state under the country’s former president.
Zuma breached South Africa’s Constitution as he facilitated deals for Bosasa, a now-defunct supplier to prisons, schools and other services that had close links to the ruling African National Congress over several years, the report said on Tuesday.
“Corruption was central to Bosasa’s business model,” the report said, after reviewing testimony by a former senior Bosasa executive turned whistleblower. “Everything came down to corruption.”
The inquiry has been reporting back to President Cyril Ramaphosa this year after years of hearings that mostly focused on South Africa’s most sweeping post-apartheid corruption scandal; claims that Zuma allowed the Guptas – three India-born brothers – to control public resources before he quit power in 2018.
Zuma’s repeated defiance of summons to testify at the inquiry briefly landed him in prison last year, sparking South Africa’s worst public violence since the end of apartheid. The Guptas, who left South Africa when Zuma lost power, deny wrongdoing.
The inquiry also looked at Bosasa as another lurid example of so-called state capture and rot in the ANC, as it heard evidence, including video of company executives stuffing bags with cash from a vault for bribes. Ramaphosa has said that he will respond to the inquiry’s findings later this year, after it publishes its last report.
But the inquiry’s conclusions on Bosasa will add to a picture of rampant graft inside the ANC, as it prepares for a major party meeting at the end of 2022 where Ramaphosa faces re-election as its leader.
The report said that Bosasa executives piled cash into a Louis Vuitton handbag to give to Dudu Myeni, Zuma’s close friend and chair of his charitable foundation. The company also bankrolled lavish birthday celebrations for Zuma, it added.
“It is established, in respect of Ms Myeni, that there were attempts made through inducements and gain to influence both her, as chair of the Jacob Zuma Foundation … and through her, Mr Zuma,” the report said.
Myeni has always denied wrongdoing, as has Zuma. The former president is appealing against a return to jail after a court threw out his medical parole last year.
Public officials and ANC politicians should also be investigated for coming under the influence of Bosasa, which provided an election war room for the party that has governed South Africa since 1994, the inquiry said.
Bosasa was headed by Gavin Watson, a scion of an Eastern Cape family, who defied apartheid sports segregation to play rugby in black townships and joined the ANC.
The company changed its name to African Global Operations to escape the corruption scandal around it but eventually applied for liquidation in 2019. Watson died in a car crash that year.
“The Watson family’s long history with the ANC would have meant that they were well attuned to where best, within the ANC and government, there was the greatest prospect of generating influence,” the report said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022
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