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CAPE TOWN — Under cloak and to avoid daggers, the Zondo Commission has silently been prepping a whistleblower to give dynamite testimony. If true, it will kick those highly-affirmed honorary South Africans, the Gupta’s, into touch for a while. It’s already set the game alight – if you thought that possible. We’ve all met the Watsons, specifically Daniel “Cheeky” Watson, who courageous mid 70’s decision to coach black rugby in the townships and later play for a black rugby team and whose sibling’s decision to join the ANC struggle fed headlines for two decades. Their Eastern Cape home was burnt down, shots were fired at them and they were ostracised by fellow whites, the ruling cadre in all things then. Cheeky’s son, Luke took up the activist torch and his brief selection for the Springboks prompted accusations of political favouritism. Well, over time, the ANC heavily rewarded the Watson’s. Their Eastern Cape security business is today a wealthy empire after countless government deals, some of them decidedly dodgy. Cheeky Watson was in court on fraud charges last year after a Hawks probe. The Gupta’s and the Watson’s share at least one thing in common – the ANC. Not just Zuma, mind. Story courtesy of the Daily Maverick. – Chris Bateman
By Ferial Haffajee
Bosasa’s former COO Angelo Agrizzi, currently testifying before the Zondo commission of inquiry into State Capture, will blow the lid on high-level corruption, State Capture and money-laundering by his former employer.
Bosasa, now trading as African Global Group, is close to the ANC and in December it emerged that CEO Gavin Watson had made a personal donation of R500,000 to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to become ANC president in 2017.
If Agrizzi’s testimony plays out as the summary before the Zondo commission of inquiry has suggested, it will dwarf the capture and corruption by the Gupta family.
In its first three months, that family was at the epicentre of almost all testimony; that changed yesterday as another family took its place.
The Watson family hail from the Eastern Cape, where Cheeky Watson’s decision to play rugby with black South Africans and forego a Springbok cap in the Eighties made them local heroes. They were close to former Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Stofile and were activists in the liberation movement.
The family, led by Gavin Watson, parlayed this influence into a massive security and facilities conglomerate which has made billions of rand from state contracts.
Agrizzi is likely to implicate himself in the instances of corruption which he will lay bare.
Late last year, Agrizzi revealed that Bosasa had made payments and security installations at the home of ANC MP Vincent Smith who, as a result of the allegations, stepped down as chairperson of a special parliamentary committee which chaired hearings into land expropriation without compensation.
News24 reports also revealed that ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe had security installed at his Boksburg home and at two Eastern Cape properties by Bosasa.
Agrizzi’s first day of testimony traced Bosasa’s genesis as a highly politically connected company called Dyambu. Dyambu sought to win catering contracts on the mines and it paid bribes to officials of the National Union of Mineworkers to get them to exert political pressure on Goldfields in order to win its first tenders. Later on, Bosasa would perfect the strategy of using trade unions to gain traction in huge security and catering deals at the country’s prisons, airports and elsewhere. It also runs the refugee repatriation facility called Lindela.
With four burly bodyguards around him, Agrizzi’s testimony has been kept top secret by the State Capture inquiry. The inquiry’s head of legal, Paul Pretorius told deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, that attempts had been made to pay off Agrizzi to silence him; when that failed, other “coercive methods” had been deployed against him and his family.
“While the threats do not shake him, he recognises and accepts his life is in danger,” said Pretorius. “Once his evidence is in the public domain, the motivation to silence him will fall away,” added the evidence leader, who added that by making the allegations public, this would provide Agrizzi with “the best protection possible”.
As Agrizzi started his testimony, lawyers for the State Capture inquiry were busy on the phones, calling all the big names that the former Bosasa executive is likely to implicate in his testimony. Usually, the commission alerts people to be named in testimony ahead of time, but it asked Zondo’s permission to forego the practice because Agrizzi’s life was perceived to be in danger.
“Not only has his identify not been disclosed (until Wednesday), but no person implicated has been given notice. We must emphasise we approach the evidence with caution. It could be fabricated, distorted, or motivated by improper motive (or) it could be reliable, true and correct,” Pretorius told Judge Zondo. Early investigations by the commission had shown that various parts of Agrizzi’s testimony are true.
“The evidence has been and continues to be studied and those implicated can put forward their versions. Our submission is that the evidence should be heard. It is manifestly in the public interest that the information should be heard,” said Pretorius. Zondo ruled that it could be heard.
Asked for comment on Agrizzi’s testimony, Executive Director for African Global Operations, Papa Leshabane said it would be premature to do so as Agrizzi’s testimony was still ongoing. DM
Ex-Bosasa Manager Exposes Extent of South African Graft Scourge
Angelo Agrizzi, who quit as Bosasa’s chief operating officer in 2016, told a judicial commission that leading politicians were among 38 high-profile individuals who received payoffs during his almost 19 years at the company. The company distributed a total of R4m ($292,000) to R6m a month, he said.
The panel, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, was established to probe the theft of taxpayer funds during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure. It has previously focused on allegations that members of the wealthy Gupta family exploited their close relationship with Zuma and other officials to loot state companies, but Agrizzi’s testimony indicates that the problem was far more widespread. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
Officials at the South African Post Office and the Airports Company of South Africa were among those who received payoffs from Bosasa, according to Agrizzi. Bribes and gifts were also given to labor union officials who helped it secure contracts from Gold Fields Ltd. and Sasol Ltd., he said.
“Every single contract was tainted with bribes and corruption,” Agrizzi told the commission in Johannesburg on Thursday. “Once you pay people on a monthly basis, you control them.”
The panel viewed video footage showing Bosasa Chief Executive Officer Gavin Watson and three other executives handling a large amount of cash, which Agrizzi said was referred to as “monopoly money” and was used to make the payoffs with Watson’s authorisation.
Bosasa, now called African Global Operations, made headlines late last year when it emerged that it had donated R500,000 to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to win control of South Africa’s ruling party. Ramaphosa, who initially denied any knowledge of the donation, then said he had inadvertently given incorrect information to parliament about it and undertook to repay the money. The company denied wrongdoing. Its spokesman Papa Leshebane, who didn’t phone calls to his office seeking comment.
Key highlights of Agrizzi’s testimony
Individuals were paid anything from 5,000 rand to more than R1m a month to further and protect Bosasa’s business interests. Those who received bribes include Maanda Manyatshe, a former chief executive officer of the South African Post Office who campaigned for Ramaphosa to win control of the ruling African National Congress, and Patrick Gillingham, chief financial officer at the department of correctional services. Agrizzi said he was complicit in bribery and was aware that he was implicating himself with his testimony, but had decided to come clean. Agrizzi said he has received death threats and the commission is providing him with protection.