Bombshell witness breaks open Bosasa bribe bonanza
The Zondo commission resumed public hearings for 2019 in spectacular fashion. A surprise witness blew open an elaborate corruption ecosystem involving controversial facilities management company Bosasa and a number of high-profile individuals, including politicians, union leaders and government officials.
Former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi delivered explosive testimony on Wednesday on how Bosasa spent between R4m and R6m a month in cash on bribes to grease the palms of those who facilitated their dodgy contracts. Bosasa’s windfall from government tenders is estimated at R1bn.
Most of the bribe money was paid in monthly tranches at the behest of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, whom Agrizzi painted as a “charismatic” mafia boss who had a walk-in vault for his backhander stash and held daily morning prayer meetings with his staff.
“It’s like being in a cult, and you become so engrossed,” Agrizzi told judge Raymond Zondo.
He said he became “blunt” to corruption while employed at the company and, therefore, did not report the illicit activities he was exposed to.
Watson referred to the bribe money, which Agrizzi said was packed in grey bank bags, as “Monopoly money”.
This is the first evidence at the state capture inquiry unrelated to the Gupta family, but supports the pattern of rot and the favouring of politically connected companies in the awarding of contracts in government and state-owned entities.
Bosasa, which has now been rebranded African Global Group, is a well-known political donor with links to a number of ANC high fliers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was recently embarrassed by revelations that the company donated R500,000 to his ANC presidential campaign kitty. He has undertaken to pay back the money.
The company has previously been linked to corruption involving the department of correctional services and doing favours for ANC politicians, including ministers Gwede Mantashe and Nomvula Mokonyane, deputy minister Thabang Makwetla and ANC MP Vincent Smith.
Bosasa also allegedly sponsored two of former president Jacob Zuma’s birthday parties.
In his testimony, likely to last a few days, Agrizzi will apparently implicate about 38 people in instances of corruption, bribery and money laundering. They include former SA Airways chair Dudu Myeni, who is closely linked to Zuma (including as the chair of his foundation).
Evidence leader Paul Pretorius said Agrizzi detailed in his statement how Myeni shared confidential information about a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) investigation into Bosasa at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Agrizzi will apparently present a picture of the NPA file as part of his evidence and also has video footage of cash being handed out.
He alleged NPA officials were bribed to suppress prosecutions relating to Bosasa.
Agrizzi’s evidence is also self-incriminating. He said he decided to come clean as a result of a near-death experience.
On Wednesday he owned up to being present at meetings where cash was handed over to several people at the Airports Company SA and the SA Post Office for helping Bosasa score lucrative contracts.
He also detailed how they bribed a trade union boss, Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers' Union (Ceppwawu) general secretary Simon Mofokeng, who helped Bosasa acquire a Sasol contract through insider information. Agrizzi told Zondo that he facilitated deliveries of meat, groceries and soft drinks to the value of R15,000 a month to Mofokeng.
“Occasionally‚ when Mofokeng felt ‘done in’ or needed extra meat‚ he would call Gavin, who would then call me‚” said Agrizzi.
Agrizzi himself received cash funds, gifts and an Audi Q7 from Watson for doing a “phenomenal job”.
“I received money in a similar way,” Agrizzi said when questioned about the way the funds were disbursed.
He was responsible for keeping a tab on the bribe money.
Agrizzi also admitted to tax fraud, as his salary was split to give the impression that his wife was also employed at the company.
As a result of threats to his life and attempts to silence him through bribes, Agrizzi’s identity was kept secret until Wednesday morning – and none of the implicated parties were given advance warning of his evidence.
His evidence continues on Thursday...