Bosasa scandals shakes up state capture saga

NEWS ANALYSIS

The testimony of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi, during the Zondo commission’s first sitting of the year, represented a major divergence from the well-worn narrative that the capture of the state was steered solely by the Guptas.

Agrizzi’s revelations of alleged fraud, corruption and money laundering at Bosasa, founded by former chief executive Gavin Watson, also introduced the extent of corporate state capture.

Head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, registered this change in his opening remarks on Wednesday.

Before revealing the identity of its first witness of 2019 — which had been kept under wraps to ensure Agrizzi’s safety amid numerous alleged threats made against his life — Pretorius teased the commission’s broadened scope, pointing out that its terms of reference are not restricted to the influence exercised by the Gupta family.

Term of reference 1.4 tasks the commission with investigating the the unlawful awarding of tenders by organs of the state “to benefit the Gupta family or any other family, individual or corporate entity”.

Bosasa and Watson have fielded allegations of corrupt dealings with state departments for more than a decade. In 2007 the Special Investigating Unit began investigating Bosasa for alleged improper conduct relating to tenders the company was awarded.

According to an affidavit by the commission’s lead investigator Frank Dutton, Agrizzi’s testimony will implicate 38 individuals.

Dutton’s affidavit also revealed that former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni had allegedly shared confidential National Prosecuting Authority documents with Watson and Agrizzi at a 2015 meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria.

Agrizzi told the commission that Bosasa, formerly named Dyambu, experienced a boon in business in the early 2000s when it entered into agreements with various mining companies, including Sasol, the South African Post Office (Sapo) and Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).

This business was largely facilitated by the ubiquitous bribing of officials at these entities, Agrizzi alleged.

So far, Agrizzi’s evidence has revealed that:

  • Union officials at Kloof Gold Mine and at Sasol were allegedly paid bribes by Watson to get them to incite industrial action calling for catering tenders to be awarded to Bosasa. Agrizzi named former National Union of Mineworkers official Joseph Mafika and former Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary Simon Mofokeng as receiving bribes. Mofokeng was allegedly sent R15 000 worth of groceries each month for his help at Sasol.
  • Sapo chief executive Maanda Manyatshe and head of security Siviwe Mapisa — brother of then correctional services minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and a business partner of Watson’s brother, Valence — received expensive gifts, allegedly in return for their help with a security tender that was awarded to Bosasa in 2000.
  • Acsa officials at OR Tambo international airport were allegedly for years given gray security bags filled with money, in an effort to retain its 2001 tender with the company. Agrizzi told the commission that Watson kept these bags of money in walk-in vaults at the Bosasa offices. Up to R6-million in cash bribes were made each month, Agrizzi said. Agrizzi told the commission that the cash used to bribe officials was “monopoly money” to Watson.

With Agrizzi — who described himself as Watson’s “right-hand man” — having so far implicated only a handful of alleged Bosasa beneficiaries, there still remains a number of people still to be named.

And with already known Bosasa associates being linked to both Cyril Ramaphosa’s and Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, it is also likely that those still to be pulled into the state capture saga will not be a part of the political faction usually associated with the Guptas.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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