You have to wonder when the real Angelo Agrizzi will stand up. At first, like the rest of South Africa, I was enthralled as this previously unknown crook spilled his guts during live televised testimony at the Zondo Commission on State Capture. Here was an obviously flawed, but much-needed whistleblower exposing the depth of corruption within the ANC. Like almost everyone else, I didn’t stop to consider that the bombshell allegations came just a few months ahead of a national election. The relevance of the timing only registered during an interview last week when a younger brother of the man branded the evil mastermind, pointed out Agrizzi’s close relationship with senior members of the opposition Democratic Alliance. So maybe it’s all about politics. Then maybe not. With Agrizzi ducking out of repeated requests for an interview, fate pushed me into calling Kevin Wakeford, for decades a close associate of my long-time colleague, the late Barry Sergeant. Barry and I both respected Wakeford, a whistleblower who courageously raised the ire of the business establishment after calling for the Rand Commission that exposed Deutsche Bank’s assault on the SA currency. Wakeford’s reputation was one of those besmirched by Agrizzi at the Zondo Commission. Unfortunately, Wakeford is unable to respond in public. Yet. But he is champing at the bit for his moment in front of Judge Zondo. When it comes, that promises to be quite an eye opener. From his side, Agrizzi is furious that we published an interview with Valence Watson who brands him a sociopath and a liar. He has gone public claiming I’m distributing fake news, and is also attacking my late friend Barry Sergeant’s good name. Here’s the story so far. – Alec Hogg
In March this year Biznews carried a Rational Perspective podcast based on an interview the Zondo Commission’s star witness Angelo Agrizzi gave to Johannesburg’s community radio station Chai FM.
The interview, with Alec Hogg’s commentary, was heavily consumed by the Biznews Community. Earlier in the year, Agrizzi had kept the nation enthralled for days as he admitted to bribery and corruption by the company he ran, Bosasa. He stated that the reason for going public followed a near death experience after which he wanted to clear his conscience.
In essence, Agrizzi blamed his own criminality on Bosasa’s culture of deceit. A crooked modus operandi which he claimed was instilled by founder and CEO Gavin Watson, the eldest of four brothers in a famous anti-apartheid activist, ANC-supporting family from the Eastern Cape.
Shortly after Agrizzi’s testimony, Biznews received correspondence suggesting all might not be what it appears. Agrizzi’s “Damascene conversion”, we were told, occurred two years before he approached the authorities. Also, his ostentation display of wealth shows he is extremely well heeled, apparently far more so than his supposed paymaster.
Biznews was also bemused that Agrizzi levelled serious allegations at two highly reputable contacts the team had dealt with for decades – Assault on the Rand whistleblower, former SACOB CEO Kevin Wakeford; and respected forensic auditor and long-time crook-buster George Papadakis.
What happened next is best followed through a timeline:
- May 23: Hogg emails Agrizzi requesting an interview.
- May 24: Agrizzi responds that he is agreeable in principle but would need his lawyers Daniel and Mannie Witz “to be clear on the parameters of the questions and the intent of the interview.”
- May 24: Hogg responds with five questions, emphasising that the intention of the interview is to discover more about who Agrizzi is and why he went public.
- May 28: Having received no response, Hogg sends a follow up again requesting an interview. Agrizzi does reply this time saying he will chat to his lawyers. That was the last communication between them until August, Agrizzi later saying he had been too busy to respond.
- August 1: After spending much of two days engaging with Valence Watson, checking documentation and timelines, Hogg interviews Gavin Watson’s younger brother who gives the other side of the Bosasa story and, inter alia, accuses Agrizzi of being a liar and a sociopath. The interview is published on Biznews in the early evening.
- August 2: Early morning (before 7am) Agrizzi calls Hogg demanding a right of reply to the Watson interview. Hogg immediately agrees and says this can either be in writing or as an interview. They agree to an interview the following week. Agrizzi says he will “most definitely revert with just some factual bullet points” and sends his private mobile number. No mail with bullet points ever arrives.
- August 3: In the weekly episode of From The Editor’s Desk, Hogg and colleague Felicity Duncan discuss the context to the Watson interview and inform the Biznews community that an interview with Agrizzi would be held the following week.
- August 3: Shortly after The Editor’s Desk is uploaded, Agrizzi sends Hogg an email with the heading: Refer Complaint to Press Ombudsman on article. The email reads:
Pursuant to discussions with various attorneys I’ve decided that in my opinion you have transgressed the basic journalistic codes and have publicly pre-empted the interview in which allegations made about myself have been put in the public domain without having even given me fair opportunity to have made comment at the time of issuing the biased interview with Mr Valence Watson.
The argument that you could not get hold of me doesn’t hold water. My contact details are known to all South Africa.
It would therefore be in the interest of the public for me to rather allow the legal team to attend to the matter. What I do find concerning is the fact that having personally dealt with Barry Sergeant as well Kevin Wakeford and Valence Watson, I am well aware of the extent of the relationship, as well as the fact that Barry Sergeant actually worked not only with Bosasa but also on Kevin Wakeford’s farm, I am sure you will agree that I have to follow what’s best for public interest and my protection.
Have a blessed weekend.
- Hogg responds noting that the alternative offer of a written right of reply remains open.
Under a posting with the link to the Valence Watson interview on Alec Hogg’s LinkedIn page, Agrizzi submits five comments including allegations that his former boss Gavin Watson stole from empowerment partners and lied under oath. He also posted a link to a News24 article about Watson and a copy of the email he sent Hogg with the comment “This is Fake News See you at the ombudsman” (see below)